Background on Administration Cryptography Policy

Note: The following document on the Clinton Administration’s Cryptography Policy is being circulated by Americans for Tax Reform to conservative organizations on Capitol Hill.


Background on Administration Cryptography Policy

THE LATEST CLINTON POWER GRAB. Quietly, almost covertly, the Clinton Administration is pursuing what may be its single worst policy initiative ever. The issue is encryption. Specifically, the Administration would:

  • Force Americans to keep “keys” with government which government can then use to intercept electronic communications without a search warrant, court order, or notice to the person being monitored
  • Negotiate international key-sharing agreements that would allow foreign governments to access U.S. keys without a search warrant, court order, or notice
  • Allow foreign governments to require that U.S. companies and citizens keep keys on file directly with them
  • For now, limit Americans to encryption that can be broken in .005 second or less by a government computer.

THIS IS NOT AN INTERNET ISSUE. Fundamental Constitutional liberties and limits on government power are at stake. Clinton Administration cryptography policy deliberately opens the door to government surveillance of all electronic communications and all electronic transactions when there is no longer a clear distinction between the Internet and other networks.

  • A major potential problem is routine monitoring of all electronic transactions for “tax compliance” reasons just as France and Russia now routinely monitor Internet communications for use of forbidden encryption technologies. As Steve Forbes has observed of the Internet, when the government can “see” everything that happens on public networks, it is going to tax and regulate everything too.
  • The outlines of a regulatory superstate are emerging elsewhere in programs already underway to create federal databases on personal health histories, education, vocational training, and other areas raising privacy concerns. There are serious problems already in the governments ability to manage sensitive taxpayer information. These databases plus electronic surveillance capabilities are truly threatening.
  • Excessive controls on encryption will compromise the safety and security of critical national Infrastructures such as the banking system, electric power grid, air traffic control system, according to last year’s National Research Council report.
  • Social engineering plus ham-handed industrial policy needlessly compromise U.S. global technological leadership. But above all, the First and Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens should be non-negotiable.

THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW. The Administration is circulating a bill in the House and Senate that fortunately to date have not been sponsored by a single member. The Administration bill must be rejected immediately.

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports legislation such as the Burns Pro-CODE in the Senate and the Goodlatte SAFE Act In the House. Others who have expressed support include Steve Forbes, Eagle Forum, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Frontiers of Freedom. A coalition letter is forthcoming.

All conservative groups must a) Insist that Congress establish cryptography policy in open debate, b) Reject regulatory attempts to end-run Congressional oversight; and c) Insist the U.S. postpone international agreements until domestic policy is set.

For more information please call Jim Lucier of Americans for Tax Reform at (202)785-0266 or email [email protected].

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.