|Opening Statement of Rep. Ed Markey
Hearing of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.
Re: HR 850, SAFE Act.
Date: May 25, 1999.
Source: This document was created by Tech Law Journal by transcribing from an audio recording of the hearing. The audio recording was of poor quality, and hence, there may be errors in this transcription.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much for having this hearing today.
This issue is a very difficult one from a public policy perspective. Policy makers are asked to balance personal security and freedom with national security and freedom, to enable better privacy protection, but to also help law enforcement fight crime, and to simultaneously salute our clear economic interest in promoting commercial exporting opportunities of encrypted products and services.
During Committee deliberations on this encryption legislation in the last session of Congress, I successfully offered an amendment which tries to strike a balance. There is no member of this Committee who is unsympathetic to the plight of law enforcement during this time of profound and rapid technological change. There is no member of this Committee who is unwilling to place certain restrictions on the most highly sophisticated encryption that could pose national security risks. The problem is that our export controls today have not fully kept up with advances in technology, or with the general availability of that technology in commercial products.
Last session, I suggested that if headlong pursuit of trying to help law enforcement officials by _____, we ought not rush into adopting rules, regulations, or instigating government intrusion into the high-tech marketplace, unless we are sure that the proposed solution solves the problem. I am convinced that proposals from the law enforcement community need additional work and further analysis. I understand their frustration. And last session I remember trying to get law enforcement the additional tools they need to fight crime. I suggested that the high-tech industry should assist law enforcement and create a national electronic technology center, at net center, to serve local, state, and federal, law enforcement authorities by providing information, and assistance regarding decryption technologies and techniques. I still believe that this policy is preferable to a policy that would place, for the first time, controls on the domestic use of encryption by American citizens, and thereby mandate how every American citizen protects his or her electronic security. I pledge to continue to try to work with the national security and law enforcement communities in trying to fashion a common sense encryption policy.
The high-tech industry has been highly organized in its efforts to liberalize and update U.S. policy towards the export of encryption software and related policies. It has correctly identified the commercial imperative, by opening up opportunities for U.S. companies to compete overseas in these critical knowledge based industries. The industry has also been quick to point out that strong encryption can help thwart crime. Moreover, the high-tech industry has noted that strong encryption can also avail customers of greater privacy protection. And the industry has been eager to assist consumers by creating products that permit people to safeguard their personal conversations or data files. For all of these efforts I wholeheartedly commend the high-tech industry.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.