Statement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
Re: House Judiciary Committee markup of HR 850, SAFE Act.

Date: March 24, 1999.
Source: Tech Law Journal recorded, transcribed, and converted to HTML Rep. Goodlatte's statement. The audio recording was poor; several words were inaudible. Copyright 1999 Tech Law Journal, all rights reserved.

Thankyou Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your holding this markup for this very important legislation. I want to thank Congresswoman Lofgren for the long hours put in on this. But I also want to thank the vast majority of the members of this committee -- I think 25 or 26 are cosponsoring the legislation.

When we introduced this legislation in the last Congress we had 55 original cosponsors. When we re-introduced it a month ago we had 205 original cosponsors. We now have 244, including most of the leadership in both parties.

The legislation is vitally needed to protect American jobs and American industry as we compete with the rest of the world. Since the time that we first began our efforts to change our export control laws, there have developed more than 650 foreign pieces of software and hardware that have strong encryption attached to it, which U.S. industry cannot compete with.

I would like to give you a couple of ____ examples. This weekend I went online and purchased a book from They use 128 bit, strong encryption -- encryption well above what our administration allows us to export. You can do that in the United States because we have no domestic controls on the use of encryption. We should not have any, because it is wonderful ____ electronic commerce to protect your email, your medical records, your copyrighted material, your industrial trade secrets, whatever the case may be, or your purchase of a book on line, make sure your credit card is safe. If I had to purchase the same book from, a U.S. company, in Great Britain, or France, or Germany, or anywhere else in the world, I would not have had the same protection, because the United States government does not allow to use strong encryption, because that would effectively be exporting that 128 bit encryption.

When I was in Europe recently leading a Congressional delegation, I met with the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Mission in Brussels, the Mission to the European Union. He indicated to me that he worked on a regular basis with the FBI and the NSA, and certainly shared their concerns, as I do, about challenges to the ____ of strong encryption. But, he said, that his opinion was fully reversed. He recently bought a computer, a ____ hundred dollar computer from the United States. It was shipped to him in Europe. And then when they called him from the company, they told him they couldn't send him the software, because that would violate American export control laws. So he went down the street to a little shop in Brussels, and bought the encryption that he needed from a foreign vendor.

To me these two examples point out the totally flawed policy we have in this country today. It is already beginning to cost American jobs in an industry that we dominate. It is depriving American citizens of the kind of protection which they need to have in electronic commerce, and most importantly, it is depriving us of a major tool to fight crime. The New York Stock Exchange is protected by the use of encryption. If we don't have the strongest encryption possible, some hacker breaking into the site can cause a financial disaster. Somebody breaking into the controls of a nuclear power plant can do the same thing. The same thing is true of a whole host of other industries, with strong encryption.

And we should have a policy that allows U.S. companies to go head to head with the foreign competition. But the concern about those who would break the law and misuse encryption is certainly one that I share with others. However, the fact of the matter is that you can now download it off the Internet. You can buy it from those 650 foreign sources.

There are no limitations on the important of strong encryption, or the domestic use of it, in our export control policy. But we still use -- in this legislation, to allow for, the government to keep it from going into the hands of criminals, of terrorist states, and so on, but allows us -- U.S. industries to go head to head to compete. That policy should be changed to make it consistent with our -- the policy of other countries.

I urge members to support this legislation, and oppose any amendments.