THE UNNECESSARY LEGISLATIVE FIGHT OVER ENCRYPTION -- HON. DOUG BEREUTER (Extension of Remarks - June 04, 1998)
HON. DOUG BEREUTER
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 1998
- Mr. BEREUTER. Mr. Speaker, H.R. 695, the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) Act is unnecessary legislation and should not be passed. Past service on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has provided this Member with considerable evidence of the harmful effects this legislation, in its current form, would have on our national security and law enforcement efforts. In addition, H.R. 695 would prohibit the Administration and specifically, the Bureau of Export Administration, from striking the proper balance between national security and commercial interests in the licensing of strong encryption. The legislation needs to be amended, dramatically, if it comes to the House Floor. But most importantly, it is not necessary.
- In the House International Relations Committee, this Member co-authored and supported an amendment to H.R. 695 which would have given the President of the United States a national security waiver to the mandated and complete relaxation of export controls of encryption products under H.R. 695. Unfortunately, our amendment was defeated on a 13-22 vote in the House International Relations Committee and H.R. 695 was passed over my opposition. This issue has been intensely lobbied by the software and electronics business sector and others.
- On the other hand, this Member also does not support competing legislation to H.R. 695, which would impose domestic controls on the use of encryption in the United States. This very complicated and important national issue has been unnecessarily polarized by the software industry and by the law enforcement community. In fact, the software industry's uncompromising position on H.R. 695 has actually prompted the law enforcement community to push for this more rigorous domestic legislation and a stalemate has been created.
- This Member believes that the disinformation that has been provided by a few groups or persons on both sides of this national debate has not led to an environment where a legislative compromise is easily achieved. For example, the software industry currently downplays the fact that many U.S. software manufacturers and hardware exporters are exporting relatively robust encryption after obtaining license approvals from the Department of Commerce. Moreover, U.S. financial institutions have general exceptions to the export controls on encryption for their own purposes.
- These two important points reveal that the solution to this issue for U.S. software exporters is not the legislative process, but a change in the administrative regulations. Simply put, current law does not prohibit the Administration from relaxing these export controls and, therefore, a change in law is not necessary.