Rep. Weldon Criticizes Administration Encryption Proposal

(September 29, 1999) Rep. Curt Weldon harshly criticized the administrations "about face in policy" on encryption at a luncheon forum on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 28. Rep. Weldon is a strong supporter of the administration's previous policy.

See, Transcript of Panel Discussion, 9/28/99.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) spoke as part of a panel discussion hosted by the Internet Caucus on the administration's new encryption policy.

Rep. Weldon is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Chairman of its Research and Development Subcommittee. In July, when the Armed Services Committee marked up the pro-encryption SAFE Act, he lead the successful fight to adopt a bill that vastly different from the SAFE Act, and consistent with the administration's former policy objectives.

Rep. Weldon stated that he is a "little bit confused ... with the change in direction which has occurred."

Rep. Curt

He explained that the Defense Department, CIA, and NSA had all lobbied him for years against the sort of encryption policy that the Clinton administration announced on September 16.

He elaborated that when Rep. Goodlatte first "introduced his bill three years ago, my door was pounded incessantly by the Defense Secretary and his staff, by the Director of the CIA, and by the head of the NSA."

"We arranged a series of classified hearings and briefings," said Rep. Weldon. At this luncheon, as at public committee markups, Rep. Weldon has declined to discuss the content of those briefings.

However, Rep. Weldon stated that "in Desert Storm, where my understanding is that our commanders in the field had Saddam Hussein's commands before his own command officers had them, because of our ability to intercept and break the codes of Saddam's military. I want to make sure that we have that capability in the future. I responded in a very positive way to the argument that was being made by the CIA, by the NSA, and by DOD."

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Administration Addresses Encryption Reform Proposal, 9/29/99.
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"In the past year none of those briefings have changed. And the people who have come to me as a Member of the National Security Committee, there has been no lessening of their impression of the threat. Yet all of a sudden I am told," said Rep. Weldon, "that there was a change."

"I am going to withhold my support for what you have done until I have seen the details that you are supposedly going to review for us on December 15," when regulations implementing the new policy are scheduled to be released.

Rep. Weldon also implied that the administration representatives who have been speaking on the new policy do not represent the view of national security community.

"And I think that we should be hearing from the CIA and NSA directly because they are the people I am concerned, in terms of being able to break into systems of foreign adversaries, of both real and potential adversaries. I want to hear from them."

"I want to hear what has changed, and whether or not they are satisfied. Once again, I am not an information technology expert. I am not a lawyer. But, I want to hear from them. I want to get them to look me in the eye to tell me they are satisfied, and they are satisfied because what we have done here is consistent with their ability to provide the kind of level of security that we need in the future."

Rep. Weldon also subtly criticized the timing of the change in policy. "I agree with the gentleman from the White House, for the administration, that it was coincidence that this happened the day before Vice President Gore went to Silicon Valley. I agree that that was just a coincidence."

Rep. Weldon also referred to the Cox Report as proof that the Commerce Department's oversight of export of security related technology has been ineffective. He concluded by demanding that the entirety of the Cox Report, and the LaBella Report, be made public.