Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

October 15, 1996

The Honorable Michael Kantor
Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to express our serious concern about the Administration's most recent policy announcement on export restrictions on encryption technology.

First, we agree with the October 4, 1996 New York Times editorial that characterized the Administration's plan as "needlessly restrictive and probably unworkable" and (though better than previous Administration proposals) "risks doing more harm than good." We recognize that this issue involves a careful balancing of commercial, consumer, law enforcement and national security considerations. However, the well-respected 1996 report by the National Research Council on this matter emphasized that U.S. law enforcement and national security would be enhanced--not weakened--by broader use of stronger U.S. encryption technologies both at home and abroad. Furthermore, the report stressed that efforts to control international trade in encryption technologies will only be effective if implemented on a comprehensive, multilateral basis.

Unfortunately, the Administrations' most recent encryption initiative shortchanges both U.S. business and law enforcement interests. The proposal is flawed for four reasons: it fails to recognize that top-down, government-imposed policies are doomed to defeat; export policies must be directly linked, or indexed, to advances in technology; export controls must be fully multilateral in order to be effective; and export control decisions will be further delayed by granting the FBI new veto authority over U.S. exports.

We fear these defects will continue to leave U.S. companies at a disadvantage in the world market, leave users of U.S. encryption uncertain about the security of their information and leave U.S. law enforcement and national security agencies behind the cryptography-curve.

Although we were not consulted in the formulation of this policy we nevertheless hope that in the coming months you will work with us and industry, consumer and user groups to refine it further. In addition to conducting oversight hearings in the next Congress on the Administration's proposal, we also want to assure you that we will continue to pursue legislative solutions toward this end.


Conrad Burns                       Ron Wyden
Trent Lott                         Lauch Faircloth
Larry Pressler                     Larry Craig
Barbara Boxer                      Al Simpson
Craig Thomas                       Pete Domenici
Patty Murray                       Kay Bailey Hutchison
John Ashcroft                      Don Nickles
Bob Goodlatte                      Zoe Lofgren
Howard Cable                       Bill Barr
Sonny Bono                         Steve Chabot
Tom Campbell