Encryption Bill Moves

Despite a suggestion from Senate Majority Leader Lott that the Senate Commerce Committee take "more time to let this [issue] percolate," the panel Thursday passed by voice vote a bill imposing additional restrictions on the export of "encryption," or data- scrambling, software programs.

The bill, co-sponsored by Commerce Chairman McCain and Senate Intelligence ranking member Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., encourages the development of a system in which U.S. software makers would turn over "keys" to their data-scrambling programs to government-approved third parties.

Under current Commerce Department regulations, designed after World War II to prevent the sale of munitions to potential U.S. enemies, U.S. software firms may not sell military-grade encryption programs in foreign markets.

The high-tech industry argues it is rapidly losing the encryption market to Japanese and European competitors because of the export restrictions. The U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities argue, however, that removing the export limits would allow terrorists and criminals to develop virtually unbreakable computer-based communications systems.

The McCain-Kerrey bill replaces a less restrictive measure proposed in February by Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

In Thursday's markup, Burns offered an amendment to the McCain-Kerrey bill to remove the key-recovery system, but it was defeated on a 12-8 vote.

In the House, the Judiciary Committee has cleared a measure relaxing export controls on encryption devices, and leading GOP members of that panel have been negotiating with the administration in to reach a compromise.

The administration has objected to a provision in that bill to allow developers of the technology to export products without giving law enforcement agencies a way to crack their codes in criminal investigations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.