U.S. Crypto Laws...

Edward S. Marshall emarshal at logic.net
Thu May 6 18:08:51 CEST 1999

[ http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/local/metros/san_francisco/story.html?s=n/kpix/sfbay/19990506/19990506101 ]

SF Court Strikes Down Encryption Export Controls

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today struck down U.S. Commerce
Department controls on the export of software for transmitting computer
messages in secret codes. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the
controls on export of encryption software are an unconstitutional limit on
free speech. The decision was made in a lawsuit filed by former Berkeley
mathematician Daniel Bernstein, who is now a mathematics and computer
science professor at the University of Illinois. While a graduate student
at the University of California at Berkeley, Bernstein developed a
computer encryption program called ``Snuffle.'' His lawyers said he wanted
to post the program on the Internet to make it available to other people
and to promote scientific discussion of his ideas.

Circuit Judge Betty Fletcher wrote, ``We conclude that the challenged
regulations allow the government to restrain speech indefinitely with no
clear criteria for review. As a result, Bernstein and other scientists
have been effectively chilled from engaging in valuable scientific

A three-judge appeals panel by a 2-1 vote upheld a similar ruling issued
in 1997 by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Patel in San Francisco. Patel
declared the regulations unconstitutional and barred the government from
interfering with Bernstein's electronic publication or discussion of his
Snuffle program. The regulations, which required a license for the export
of enryption software, were intended to protect national security by
preventing groups such as foreign terrorists and drug smugglers from
transmitting messages in secret code.

Cindy Cohn, a lawyer for Bernstein, said she was very happy with the
ruling but said she could not comment in detail until she had read it.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which defended the
regulations, was not immediately available for comment.


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