a $10,000 fine and two years in prison. The Patent Office did not indicate how long the invention had to be kept secret, did not justify the secrecy order, and did not indicate whether there was any way to appeal its decision.
Meanwhile, three engineers in Seattle filed an application for a patent on an inexpensive voice scrambler they planned to market. They too were the subject of secrecy order from the Patent Office. A furor arose around both cases as protests were filed and widely reported. In June 1978 the secrecy order involving Davida’s invention was rescinded, and the restriction on the scrambler unit was lifted the following October.
A related sequence of events began in 1975, when a grantee of the National Science Foundation (NSF) inquired whether NSA had sole statutory authority to fund research in cryptography and whether other federal agencies were specifically enjoined from supporting that type of work. After investigation by the NSF legal staff, no basis was found for such a belief.
The matter of support for cryptography research was raised more formally in May 1977 when two NSA representatives visited the Division of Computer Research at NSF to explore ways of improving the coordination of policy between the two agencies. At that time an NSF program officer agreed to send proposals for funding research in cryptography to NSA for review, but with the caveat that an NSA recommendation against funding that gave no reasons for the recommendation would be considered unacceptable. NSF therefore reserved the right to fund such research at its own discretion. This agreement between the two agencies, confirmed in a letter to NSA from the Director of the NSF Division on Mathematical and Computer Sciences in November 1980, is now observed informally by all other NSF divisions as well.
In September 1978 NSF Director Richard Atkinson visited the NSA to discuss the likely response of NSA if NSF-supported basic research began to impinge on areas related to national security. To help prevent problems of this nature, Atkinson proposed that NSA sponsor a small unclassified research program to increase the overall level of support for cryptographic research and to differentiate between the areas to be funded by NSF and those to be funded by NSA. Meetings on such a program were never convened, but NSA subsequently established an unclassified research grants program, which made its first award in FY 1982. The NSF is cooperating in this new program and has made one joint award with the NSA.
The next development occurred in July and August 1980 when NSF received two letters from Admiral B.R.Inman, then Director of NSA, concerning research proposals submitted by Leonard Adelman and Ronald Rivest, respectively. NSA had reviewed the proposals and had decided that the probable results, if openly published, would have a serious negative impact on national security. The NSA proposed that both Adelman and Rivest contact it directly regarding support for their proposals. The NSF’s response to the Inman letters was largely determined by its responsibilities under Executive Order 12065, which states that when an employee or contractor of an agency not having original classification authority originates information believed to