Clinton plan would ease export restriction on encryption software

Clinton plan would ease export restriction on encryption software

The Clinton administration has proposed rules that would loosen the export restrictions on encryption software.

In an about-face, the government wants to let companies export their strongest security software without obtaining individual licenses for each customer. The one caveat would be the restriction of sales to customers in countries labeled as enemies by the State Department.

In the wrong hands

Law enforcement and national security officials have opposed the export of strong encryption products, citing concerns that they would be used by criminals and terrorists to hide illegal activities.

Industry groups have argued that the restrictions put them at a competitive disadvantage and effectively lock U.S. companies out of the marketplace.

The proposal is the latest step in the continuing tussle over the government's encryption policies. Early in the Clinton administration, government officials suggested that encryption keys be available so the government would be able to break into a system if the need arose and a warrant was obtained. But privacy advocates cried foul, arguing that the keys would make it too easy for the government to play Big Brother.

Deputy Defense secretary John Hamre described the policy as a different approach. 'We're still going to have to do a lot of work'we in the national security establishment'to live in this kind of environment,' he said. 'We'll have to develop new tools and techniques.'

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