24 March 1997
Thanks to Declan McCullagh

To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 18:34:51 -0800 (PST)
From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>

Reps. White and Bliley: requesting comments on crypto policy

Reps. Rick White (R-Washington) and Tom Bliley (R-Virginia) have been busy sending out letters requesting comments on encryption policy -- and asking pointed questions. The letters have gone to:

Lieutenant General Kenneth Minihan, Director of the National Security Agency

Secretary William Daley, United States Department of Commerce

Director Louis Freeh, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Ambassador David Aaron, U.S. Special Envoy for Cryptology

Robert Holleyman, President of the Business Software Association

Ken Wasch, President of the Software Publishers Association

Kathy Kincaid, Director of I/T Security Programs at IBM

Attached is the one to the NSA.


March 21, 1997

Lieutenant General Kenneth A. Minihan
National Security Agency/Central Security Service
9800 Savage Road
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755-6000

Dear General Minihan:

The Committee on Commerce has jurisdiction over all matters relating to interstate and foreign commerce, including commerce transacted over electronic mediums. One vehicle for interstate and foreign electronic commerce, the Internet, has experienced unexpected and exceptional growth. Our Committee has an obligation to ensure that the growth of electronic commerce over the Internet and other networks is not stifled by unnecessary or harmful regulation or policies. Thus, the Committee will be discussing what policies best promote electronic commerce over the Internet and other networks.

The growth and success of the Internet and the World Wide Web as both a communications tool, and a medium for electronic commerce is unprecedented. Leading industry estimates indicate that the number of people using the Internet is increasing at the rate of more than 100% per year -- few technologies have had such quick acceptance into the daily activities of Americans. However, the full potential of the Internet as a means for conducting business transactions, or electronic commerce, has yet to be achieved. Most leading experts agree that a developed Internet, and corresponding intranets, have the capability to be engines for economic growth for those offering services over the Internet, and also have the capability to be a means for transforming business operations from one of paper-intensity to one conducted solely through electronic communications and transactions.

Unlocking the full potential of the Internet and thus, promoting the use of electronic commerce has been difficult, in part, because of existing and perceived barriers, e.g., many consumers and businesses are concerned with the security and privacy of transactions that would occur over the Internet. A belief in the security of information passed over the Internet and through on-line services that use the public switched network will foster the continued growth of electronic commerce. Fortunately, the use of cryptography or encryption, either hardware or software, may provide a technological aid in the promotion of electronic commerce. We believe, however, that a sound encryption policy for both interstate and foreign electronic commerce must balance users' privacy interests with society's interest in legitimate law enforcement and investigative needs and the needs to preserve national security.

As you know, the U.S. has export restrictions on certain encryption products that may or may not interfere with the development of encryption products designed to secure communications and transactions. These restrictions have been the subject of recently proposed legislation in committees in both the House and Senate.

Because of our responsibility over electronic commerce, we seek to have your views on a number of the issues related to the various bills. Therefore, we request that you provide written answers to the following questions by April 25, 1997:

(1) With the understanding that there are no domestic restrictions on encryption products, please provide examples where national security may be jeopardized by the relaxation of current American export restriction policy, as incorporated in Executive Order 13026 and implemented, in part, in the corresponding Bureau of Export Administration rules of December 30, 1996. Are there remedies other than export restrictions that would provide the United States government the access it needs to encrypted communications, e.g., increased funding for new advanced computers?

(2) How significant is your agencies' consultive role with the Department of Commerce within the current export restrictions? Should this role be strengthened or is it even necessary? How much additional application process time does your agencies' consultive role add to the Department of Commerce's procedures?

(3) It is commonly accepted that current encryption export restrictions imposed by the Administration will delay the proliferation of advanced encryption products, but that it is inevitable that advanced encryption products will be developed world-wide. In your opinion, do export restrictions prevent the development and distribution of advanced encryption products?

(4) Are foreign import restrictions consistent with the Administration's policy? Please identify the countries that have import restrictions and those that have stated their intent not to have any import restrictions. If the United States relaxes its export restrictions, do you anticipate that foreign nations will increase their import restrictions?

In addition, we request that your staff analyze and submit their comments on the following:

(1) the current export restrictions;

(2) the congressional bills introduced that would alter export policy (H.R. 695, S. 376, S. 377); and

(3) any other analysis related to encryption export policy your organization has prepared.

Please have your staff contact John Morabito or Tricia Paoletta of the Commerce Committee staff at (202) 225-2927 if you have any questions regarding the above request. We thank you in advance for your assistance. With kindest regards, we are


Tom Bliley

Rick White
Member of Congress

Declan McCullagh
Time Inc.
The Netly News Network
Washington Correspondent

See related March 20 NSA testimony: http://jya.com/nsacrowell.htm

Hypertext and links by JYA/Urban Deadline.