ACP SEEKS SUPPORT FOR SAFE ACT IN TESTIMONY BEFORE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE
COALITION COUNSEL TELLS LAWMAKERS CURRENT ENCRYPTION EXPORT RESTRICTIONS JEOPARDIZE NATION'S LONG-TERM SECURITY OBJECTIVES
Washington, DC-- Americans for Computer Privacy (ACP) Counsel Jeffrey Smith today warned the House
Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade that America’s current encryption
export policy could cost the nation its global leadership position in information
technology -- and ultimately jeopardize national security. In remarks made during a
legislative hearing on H.R. 850, the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act,
Smith equated attempts to control the proliferation of encryption with trying to control
the proliferation of mathematics, and urged lawmakers to support the SAFE Act, which seeks
to lift export restricts on U.S-made encryption.
"Encryption algorithms are nothing but sophisticated mathematics," Smith said. "And while
the United States may realistically hope to remain the leader in such a field, it cannot
realistically expect to monopolize it."
Stating that current encryption policy is "highly problematic," Smith noted that ACP’s
industrial members have ample evidence of the rapidly growing market share of foreign
encryption and examples of U.S businesses losing out because of U.S. export regulations.
"For example, a December 1997 study conducted by Trusted Information Systems found that
656 non-American encryption products are available from 29 foreign countries." He also
noted that "foreign producers of information technology systems are finding that their
ability to provide end-to-end systems incorporating stronger encryption than U.S.
companies are permitted to export gives them a decided market advantage."
"If we do lose that U.S. leadership position, what will that mean?" Smith asked. "It will
mean that the national security agencies will be confronting ubiquitous encryption made
not by U.S. companies, but by foreign companies. Where then will the national security
agencies go for technical help on encryption?"
"…it seems to us (ACP)," Smith said, "that the President, Congress and industry have a
responsibility to ensure that in the future our law enforcement and intelligence agencies
have the ability to continue to protect this nation as they do today. Indeed, they will
probably need additional resources and technical help to meet the challenges of the next
century. But those challenges are far greater if they are forced to face a world in which
the majority of communications pass over systems that are foreign designed, foreign built,
foreign installed and incorporate foreign encryption."
While acknowledging that "significant progress was made last year" in both the new
Administration policy announced in September by the Vice President, and in the interim
final regulations of December 31, Smith said the Administration policy "does not represent
the clear and realistic national policy this issue requires." He went on to site the
shortcomings of the Wassenaar Arrangement, an agreement the U.S. entered into with 32
other nations containing certain export controls on encryption.
"… Wassenaar has only 33 members and does not include encryption-producing countries such
as China, India, South Africa, or Israel," Smith noted. He went on to explain that the
agreement "is only as effective as the implementing regulations adopted by the signatory
states" and that some of those states "will promulgate regulations that are less
restrictive" than those of the U.S., giving them a competitive advantage. He also pointed
out that current regulations impose greater restrictions on American companies than called
for under Wassenaar, and that as a minimal step, U.S. controls should be made consistent
with the revised arrangement.
"As we move into the new millennium," Smith said, " information technology will play an
increasingly important role in the way we govern ourselves, communicate among peoples,
conduct commerce, and operate and protect our national infrastructure. Strong encryption
is key to the continued vitality and growth of all these activities. Accordingly, the
United States needs a clear and realistic national policy to assure that industry is able
to develop the products that will help meet our national objectives."
ACP is a broad-based coalition that brings together more than 100 companies and 40
associations representing financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, high-tech
and transportation, as well as law enforcement, civil liberty, pro-family and taxpayer
groups. ACP supports policies that advance the rights of American citizens to encode
information without fear of government intrusion, and advocates the lifting of current
export restrictions on U.S.-made encryption.