For immediate release:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Montana Senator Conrad Burns today criticized the Clinton administration's latest computer security proposal as yet another government-driven mandate and urged swift passage of Burns' "Pro-CODE" bill, which addresses export of encryption technology and prohibits mandatory decryption-key escrow. Burns reacted to the circulation of a draft administration proposal entitled "Achieving Privacy, Commerce, Security and Public Safety in the Global Information Infrastructure."
The proposal, dated May 10 and dubbed "Clipper III" by critics, moves toward the loosening and possibly eventual elimination of export controls on encryption technologies, but only if companies and individuals surrender a copy of their code keys to a government-approved third party.
"It's three strikes and you're out at the old ball game, and I would say that the third version of the administration's Clipper Chip proposal is a swing and a miss," Burns said. "It's time to quit relying on government mandates for what is truly a matter of great concern to the private sector: the expansion of commerce on the Internet and other computer networks.
"The administration has been using export restrictions as a billy club to force American companies into accepting government control over the keys to their computer files and transmissions. At least this new proposal admits that the current 40-bit limit on exports is outdated and a poor guarantee of electronic security and integrity, but it again operates from the standpoint that the government, and not the private sector, knows best when it comes to key strength and control over those keys.
"We can only stick our heads in the sand for so long. It is important to point out that the criminals and trouble-makers who are apparently targets of this plan are unlikely to enroll in any key-escrow system. Law-abiding businesses and individuals would suffer at the hands of this misguided proposal.
"While this may appear to be a compromise of the administration's earlier positions, we have to remember that an executive action can be reversed just as quickly after an election year. It is crucial that we pass legislation to codify a solution to the administration's current outdated export policies, and to ensure that the government won't force anyone to give up the keys to their computers."
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