Goodlatte and Boucher Criticize British Key Escrow Proposals

(February 18, 1999) Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Rep. Rick Boucher expressed concern over key escrow proposals in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 16. The two are part of a Congressional delegation in Europe to discuss electronic commerce issues. The House of Representatives is in recess this week.

"U.S. government proposals of a government-mandated key recovery system are strongly opposed by a substantial bipartisan majority in Congress, and thus are highly unlikely to ever become law in the U.S.," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in a press release.

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Bob Goodlatte

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) stated: "Government key escrow proposals, which force computer users to give the government access to their encryption keys without their knowledge or consent, and before they have ever been suspected of any criminal activity, undermine the very purpose of encryption, which is to provide privacy and security."

Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Boucher are two of the Co-Chairmen of the Internet Caucus. Also, Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) were the lead sponsors of the Safety and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act in the just ended 105th Congress. That bill, HR 695, would have prohibited government mandated key escrow systems and relaxed current export controls over strong U.S. made encryption products. The bill did not pass the House.

Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Lofgren are scheduled to hold a press conference to announce the re-introduction in the 106th Congress of their SAFE Act on February 25, 1999. The event will be held in Room HC-6 of the Capitol Building. "It will be very similar to the bill as passed by the Judiciary and International Relations Committees" in the last Congress, said David Lehman, press secretary to Rep. Goodlatte.

"Encryption is the key electronic commerce and privacy issue in the Information Age. Financial transactions, personal information, medical records, and tax returns must all be protected from criminals, spies, and hackers," Rep. Goodlatte also stated. "While law enforcement needs help in meeting the new challenges of the Information Age, security and constitutional rights cannot be compromised in the process."

The Congressional delegation is made up of Rep. Goodlatte, Rep. Boucher, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC). Rep. Boucher and Rep. Gordon both sit on the House Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over most bills affecting electronic commerce. Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Boucher sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over intellectual property bills. Rep. Myrick sits on the House Rules Committee, which serves as the gatekeeper for all bills.

After visiting Great Britain, the delegation travelled to Paris on Wednesday to meet with member of the French National Assembly. It will go on to Brussels on Friday. David Lehman stated that the delegation is discussing encryption, electronic commerce, online privacy, Internet taxes, intellectual property, including copyrighted worked in the digital environment.

Rep. Goodlatte added that the U.S. Congressional delegation agrees with the British government on most Internet related issues, "including digital signatures, Internet taxation, and developing a consensus on online privacy."

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