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Encryption Bills -- 105th Congress

Several bills have been introduced in Congress to liberalize export control laws, protect the legal right to use all forms of encryption, and to prevent the imposition of mandatory key escrow encryption. The proposals would effectively end the attempt by the White House to force the adoption of cryptographic techniques designed for third party access.

On February 27, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) reintroduced the Pro-CODE legislation (S.377) to promote commerce and privacy on the Internet. Senator Burns said that "support has been building in Congress every year and will soon reach a critical mass as it becomes apparent that the administration policy could devastate our high-tech sector and a vital Internet." The bill has gained the support of twenty Senators. However, one new provision in the bill would create a secret Information Security Board that would give law enforcement agencies special access to the development of new plans for privacy enhancing technologies. EPIC has said that such a board should operate subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires that government business be conducted in the open. EPIC also recommended that the board be composed of a wide range of organizations, including user groups, technical experts, and consumer advocates. At the same time that Senator Burns introduced Pro-CODE, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Encrypted Communications Privacy Act (S.376). The bill would protect the right to use encryption, but would criminalize the use of encryption in furtherance of a crime and also sets up a legal framework to promote key escrow.

Earlier, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) re-introduced the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) Act (H.R. 695). The bill, which has over 50 cosponsors, relaxes crypto export controls and prohibits mandatory key escrow. It also creates new criminal penalties for using encryption to further a criminal act.

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Last modified: March 4, 1997