Dear Colleague Letter from Reps. Kennedy, Sanchez, Smith, and Tauscher.
Re: Support for HR 850, SAFE Act.

Date: May 26, 1999.
Source: Office of Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

Dear House Armed Services Committee Member Colleague:

We are writing to you to indicate our support for HR 850, the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act. As Members of the Armed Service Committee, we want to inform you as to why we are supportive of this legislation and why we urge you to join us in cosponsoring the bill. Protecting our National Security interests is among our highest priorities. If we thought controlling encryption exports worked towards this end, we would be its strongest proponents. Unfortunately, export controls on encryption software simply disadvantages the United States software industry.

Encryption technology is the key to Security in the information age. By scrambling information into unreadable text, it ensures the privacy of electronic data. The United States encryption policy does not allow the export of strong encryption technologies and that are in most demand. In the past, these restrictions have been justified as a way to protect our national Security. But what we fail to recognize is that by simply controlling our exports, we are not stopping the world from access to these encryption products. Simply put, our legislative policies have been out paced by technology, and it time to acknowledge that reality.

The international marketplace ensures that those who want to, can purchase this technology - and they are purchasing it from foreign companies. Industry has counted over 600 foreign encryption products and U.S. industry is rapidly losing its market share of encryption and larger systems. Companies in Ireland, Germany, England, India, Japan, and Russia, to name a few, are already developing their own telecommunications, software and hardware technology. The restrictions on our encryption policy, in effect, allow these international companies to sell their encryption products with abandon. Furthermore, the fact that we have export controls that prohibit future service and product upgrades is being used as an marketing tool against American corporations. This hurts us economically, but it also endangers our national security as it encourages the proliferation of non-American encryption. Our national security is best protected by ensuring that U.S. firms continue to dominate the technology market. Furthermore, the national security mission is hindered if we have an uncertain future dominated by firms that would never cooperate with the U.S. government, in contrast with American firms that have already shown a willingness to do that. Additionally, these controls may have the effect of moving American encryption expertise and companies, America's "best and brightest," to locations outside of the United States. This exodus of jobs, and technology, endangers our future security and economy as well.

The SAFE Act amends the Export Assistance Act (EAA) to grant the Secretary of Commerce authority over non-military encryption. It allows the Secretary a one time review to determine if the encryption should be permitted to be exported. The bill provides that the Secretary could prohibit encryption for for export if it is suspected to be destined for terrorist uses and the President could ban exports to terrorist countries as part of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the Trading With Enemies Act (TWEA) or the EAA.

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Our current policy has the effect of "cutting off our nose, in spite our face." It places us at a disadvantage that eventually will end up jeopardizing our national security interests because we are allowing foreign countries to surpass us and to have greater control over the encryption market than American companies. In the interest of National Security, we urge you to join 253 of our House colleagues in cosponsoring this critical legislation, the SAFE Act.



Patrick J. Kennedy
Member of Congress
Adam Smith
Member of Congress
Loretta Sanchez
Member of Congress
Ellen Tauscher
Member of Congress