Statement by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
Re: House Judiciary Committee markup of SAFE Act, HR 850.

Date: March 24, 1999.
Source: Office of Rep. Lofgren.


Our current export control policy, limiting the export of strong encryption products, compromises our ability to compete abroad. We are losing 60 to 90 billion dollars in business and hundreds of thousands of jobs to other companies in other nations that export similar products and for what purpose?

These export restrictions don't have any law enforcement effect. Narcotics traffickers, cyber-terrorists, and other criminals are not going to respect export restrictions on encryption when they donıt respect our drug laws, or any other chapter or section of our criminal code.

The Administration can't seriously contend that someone who uses encryption in furtherance of a crime is then going to surrender the key that unlocks their encrypted message to some third party so that key may be made available to law enforcement. In fact, in the last Congress, in response to a question from the Gentleman from Virginia, Bobby Scott, the Department of Justice conceded as much, that the Administration did not expect criminals to comply.

The Administration has nevertheless insisted there was a commercial need for key recovery. Perhaps there is some need but not any serious demand for the all-encompassing system the Administration wants.

This proposed system, according to the experts, costs too much, is too complex, or is too insecure. And the emphasis is on the lack of security.

The Administration insists it doesn't want domestic restrictions on encryption. But the Administration policy, to insist on a key recovery system, would have this effect.

As we well know in Silicon Valley, and as I think it is generally appreciated by anyone who purchases upgrades, the development of software occurs quickly and encryption is no exception to that general rule.

In this industrial context, where the short product cycle that is a fact of economic life, it is just not feasible for computer software and hardware companies to develop separate products for export and for domestic use.

If our export policy encourages weaker encryption, it potentially exposes every American to unwanted intrusions into computer files, phone conversations, and personal information. Thus, the irony, that what some would herald as an aid to law enforcement is revealed instead as an impediment to personal and corporate security.

The Administration has done much. I'm the first to admit that. There is, however, more to be done. Iım still hopeful that the Administration will embrace this bill as the way to go.

Iım hopeful that the Administration will acknowledge the wide bi-partisan support that H.R. 850 has received in this Congress from the leadership and Members.

I am hopeful that H.R. 850 will be seen for what it is: the most sensible encryption policy we could have, assuring to this nation and its citizens not only the security they require, and the privacy they demand, but also the continued dominance this nation has enjoyed in the global economy.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.