Opening Statement by Rep. Julian Dixon (D-CA).
Re: House Intelligence Committee hearing on HR 850, SAFE Act.
Date: June 9, 1999.
Source: House Select Committee on Intelligence. This document was created by scanning a fax copy, and converting to HTML.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This encryption issue appears to be as complex as it is contentious. I look forward to increasing my level of knowledge on it, and I suspect that the rest of our Members feel the same way. The briefings and hearings that you are planning will, I hope, enlighten us to the point that we can make a constructive contribution to the deliberations of the House.

I want first of all to welcome our colleague, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, and commend him for the attention, time, and effort he has devoted to this very important issue.

The last time the Committee acted on a version of Mr. Goodlatte's encryption legislation, the Committee voted in favor of requiring that encryption products sold in this country must allow for law enforcement agencies to get access to the underlying unencrypted information under a court order. The bill the Committee reported also would have allowed the export of encryption products of any strength provided that they included means to access the underlying unenciphered text of an encrypted communication.

Mr. Goodlatte's bill, in contrast, apparently would prohibit the government from requiring that key-recovery schemes be adopted or used, and the administration asserts that the bill would essentially dispense with meaningful export controls on encryption, with very damaging consequences for law enforcement and intelligence gathering.

Almost all parties to this debate claim to seek a balance between the competing interests of privacy, commercial gain, law enforcement, and national security. I am told that some progress has been made in reconciling the positions of the administration and the business community, but so far it seems that agreement on what constitutes a proper balance remains quite elusive.

Yesterday, we were briefed by officials from the National Security Agency on the administration's view of the importance of maintaining export controls on encryption, as well as NSA's rebuttal to arguments that export controls at this point serve only to penalize U.S. industry since strong encryption products are already widely available abroad.

Today, in addition to Mr. Goodlatte, our witnesses include the Under Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Reinsch, and representatives from industry, the law enforcement community, Business Executives for National Security, B'nai B'rith, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Since our first panel includes Mr. Reinsch, let me state now what I hope to to learn from him. I would like his opinion on this same question of "foreign availability" that NSA addressed yesterday. I also would like his candid assessment of the prospects for the U.S. to convince the countries that are able to export strong encryption products of the wisdom of limiting such exports in a fully coordinated manner. Finally, I would like Mr. Reinsch to explain clearly the relationship between U.S. export controls and the interests of domestic law enforcement.

I look forward to the testimony of our other witnesses today; this is an important series of panels that will surely help us make a more informed judgment on the legislation before the Committee.