gephardt slams crypto regs

Vladimir Z. Nuri vznuri at
Sun Aug 24 18:23:49 PDT 1997

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Date: Sat, 23 Aug 1997 00:57:05 -0700
From: "J. Orlin Grabbe" <kalliste at>
Subject: [Fwd: Encryption is vital to the Net BY RICHARD A. GEPHARDT]

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Subject: Encryption is vital to the Net BY RICHARD A. GEPHARDT
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 22:22:02 GMT
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Encryption is vital to the Net


 THE Clinton administration's recent call for a ``non-regulatory,
market-oriented''  approach to promoting Internet commerce includes
many constructive initiatives.   However, if we are to realize the
full potential of the Internet, we must also end the  outdated
restrictions on U.S. exports of encryption products.

 Encryption, which encodes electronic messages so that only a
recipient with the  ability to decode the message can read it, is
vital to the future of Internet  commerce. It prevents crime by
keeping hackers from reading your e-mail or  stooling your credit card
numbers. It helps companies protect trade secrets. As  more
information flows over the open networks that constitute the Internet,
people  increasingly need encryption to keep their information secure.

 Because encryption is not restricted domestically, you would think
American  companies would be global leaders in world markets. But
often they aren't allowed  to compete. Fearing the availability of
encryption abroad could make it more  difficult for the U.S.
government to intercept the communications of criminals and
 gather intelligence, the current and past Administrations have chosen
to maintain  strict export controls on encryption. The level of
encryption U.S. companies are permitted to export is now so weak that
a college hacker can break it in less than  four hours.

 If export controls could keep encryption from criminals, controls
would make  sense. But U.S. self-restraint has simply encouraged
foreign producers of strong  encryption, who are not covered by export
limits, to fill the vacuum. Hundreds of  strong encryption products,
many developed in countries like Canada, Ireland, Germany and Russia,
are increasingly available abroad. And as foreign competitors
 use their advantage in encryption to win more high-tech sales, we
lose jobs.

 The National Research Council's blue-ribbon panel on encryption
policy recently  warned that ``foreign competition could emerge at a
level significant enough to  damage the present U.S. world
leadership'' in the software industry. Such damage could jeopardize
hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs. It could also  undermine
our national security, according to the Council, by making it harder
for  the U.S. government to keep abreast of evolving encryption
technology in the  future. The Council endorsed a relaxation of export
controls in order to maintain the U.S. lead in this vital sector.

 The Administration has proposed a ``key recovery'' system to require
users to  make available to governments the ``keys''' to decode their
private communications. But giving governments worldwide ready access
to individuals' private information and to corporate secrets raises
difficult issues. Will U.S. firms operating in China be forced to
trust that government with the keys to their trade secrets? Will human
rights groups abroad, where U.S. constitutional protections do
 not apply, be forced to give authoritarian governments the keys to
their membership lists? Can we really expect criminals to give up
their keys so that they may be made available to the government?

 Key recovery won't work unless the many countries that produce
encryption adopt it. Otherwise criminals could still obtain encryption
from non-complying countries.  But countries like Germany have refused
to support key recovery. Indeed, they have a strong economic incentive
to resist. As long as the international disagreements persist and we
hog-tie our industry, their's will enjoy an advantage in world

 The National Research Council urged a balanced approach to this
problem: improve security on the Internet and prevent crime by
relaxing exports controls and allowing U.S. exporters to meet the
competition. Maintain robust controls against rogue nations. Impose
penalties for misusing encryption to commit crime.  And invest in
additional technical capabilities to help our intelligence agencies
adjust to the information age.

 Led by Members like Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, more than
250 Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives --
myself included -- have joined in support of the Security and Freedom
through Encryption (SAFE) bill to relax export controls and advance
many of the recommendations of the National Research Council.

 With growing support, the SAFE bill makes it clear that the Congress
will not tolerate the continued shackling of our high-tech sector. We
are willing to work with all sides to develop a consensus on a
workable, market-oriented approach that can advance our law
enforcement interests and win international acceptance.
 But we aren't willing to simply watch the current stalemate continue
and keep U.S. industry on the sidelines. It is time to move forward
and modernize our export policies for the information age.

 Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., is the House Democratic leader. 

 Published Thursday, August 21, 1997, in the San Jose Mercury News 

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