Today in the House Armed Services Committee, Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith was one of six Members of Congress to oppose the Weldon amendment to gut key provisions of H.R. 850, the Security and Freedom through Encryption Act.

Joining Smith in opposition to the Weldon amendment were Democrats Loretta Sanchez, Marty Meehan, Baron Hill, Ellen Tauscher, and Republican Mary Bono.

Despite proponents’ claims, Smith says that relaxing export restrictions will not threaten national security. “The technology has already proliferated throughout the world,” he said. “Our export restrictions are not protecting our national security, they’re simply giving foreign software companies a chance to capture the global encryption technology market.”

Smith argues that current policy is the real threat to U.S. national security. “Our self-imposed ban on 
encryption exports is disadvantaging U.S. software companies and threatening our competitiveness in this emerging new technology,” said Smith. “The real threat to our national security would be for the United States to lose its advantage in top-of-the-line technologies such as encryption. If we continue tying the hands of U.S. firms and conceding market share to foreign companies, that will be the result.”

Other countries either have much looser restrictions on encryption technology or no restrictions at all. Canada has allowed a company to export its encryption software, and it sells 128-bit encryption for less than fifty dollars. Encryption software can also be easily downloaded from the Internet.

This year, opponents of relaxing encryption export controls used the Cox-Dicks report as an excuse to keep export restrictions intact. Smith countered this argument by pointing out that Representative Chris Cox, who headed the commission that produced the Cox-Dicks report, is a co-sponsor of H.R. 850.

“We have to prioritize national security and ensure other countries don’t have access to our military secrets, but trying to wrap our arms around encryption technology and hinder U.S. companies’ ability to continue to be the worldwide leaders in this industry is like holding water with a fish net,” Smith said. 

Smith, a member of the New Democrat Coalition, criticized the Republicans and Republican Conference Chair and Armed Services Committee Member J.C. Watts for failing to protect H.R. 850. “Just a few weeks ago, we heard the Republicans profess their support for the New Economy and the technology industry,” he said. “But where were they today? Why did Congressman Watts, the Republicans’ supposed technology policy leader, vote to gut this bill that is so important to our high-tech economy and our national security?”

The next step is the Rules Committee, where committee members will weigh changes made to H.R. 850 by four different committees and produce a final product for floor consideration. Smith and other supporters of H.R. 850 will seek passage of the original bill.