Opening Statement of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT).
Re: Senate Commerce Committee hearing on S 798, PROTECT Act.
Date: June 10, 1999.
Source: Senate Commerce Committee. This document was created by scanning a photocopy, and converting to HTML.
burns.jpg (5230 bytes)

JUNE 10, 1999

I am pleased to chair today's hearing in the Full Committee, which is on a topic critical to the future of this country--reforming our country's severely outdated encryption policy. Today's hearing will focus specifically on the "PROTECT Act OF 1999." This bill reflects a number of discussions the Full Committee Chairman and I have had about the importance of encryption in the digital age. I would also like to thank Sen. Wyden and Sen. Abraham for their instrumental role in the creation of this pro-encryption legislation that I am confident will be supported by a large majority of this Committee.

Along with several other members of this Committee, I have long advocated the enactment of legislation that would facilitate the use of strong encryption. Strong encryption is necessary to promote electronic commerce, secure our confidential business and sensitive personal information, prevent crime and protect our national security by protecting our commercial information systems. Beginning in the 104th Congress, I introduced legislation that would ensure that the private sector continues to take the lead in developing innovative products to protect the security and confidentiality of our electronic information including the ability to export such American products. I believe PROTECT accomplishes these important objectives.

Specifically, the bill does the following:

Today, we are in a world where nearly everyone has a computer and that those computers are, for the most part, connected to one another. In light of that fact, it is becoming more and more important to ensure that our communications over these computer networks are conducted in a secure way. It is no longer possible to say that when we move into the information age, we'll secure these networks, because we are already there. We use computers in our homes and businesses in a way that couldn't have been imagined 10 years ago, and these computers are connected through networks, making it easier to communicate than ever before. This phenomenon holds the promise of transforming life in states like Montana, where health care and state-of-the-art education can be delivered over networks to people located far away from population centers. These new technologies can improve the lives of real people, but only if the security of information that moves over these networks is safe and reliable.

The problem today is that our computer networks are not as secure as they could be. It is fairly easy for amateur hackers to break into our networks. Hackers can intercept information, steal trade secrets and intellectual property or even alter medical records. The solution to this problem is to let individuals and businesses alike to take steps to secure that information. Encryption is a vital tool which helps to protect the integrity of these electronic networks which have made so many wonders of the modern age possible.

I look forward to the testimony of the witnesses on this critical issue.

Thank you.