FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Washington, D.C. — Emphasizing private sector leadership, the Clinton administration announced a series of proposals aimed at dealing with the growing threat of electronic crime while protecting the privacy rights of millions of Internet users.
In a speech at the National Press Club, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta announced the administration has updated its policy for encryption exports to the European Union and key trading partners.
“Our administration has already moved to liberalize export controls on encryption, allowing more companies to export the technology to more end users. And we’ve done so while maintaining a framework necessary to protect our national security,” Podesta said. “Today we are announcing significant new updates.”
Under the new policy, American companies can export with license exemption any encryption product to any end user in the European Union and eight trading partners: Austria, Norway, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland.
The policy also calls for an elimination of the 30-day waiting period when exporting encryption goods to these countries, a move similar to deregulation recently adopted by the European Union.
Podesta also announced four administration cyber-security proposals – the first dealing with the language of outmoded wiretap laws. Current laws use outdated terms such as “phone lines” and hardware “devices.”
“Laws should be clearly updated to apply to the Internet era, where hardware and software can be interchangeable,” he said.
The measure would amend statutes to apply equal standards to hardware – such as wiretaps – and to computer software programs, which allow virtually the same surveillance.
Second, Podesta made clear the administration’s desire to achieve parity with the legal standards applying to law enforcement access to e-mails, telephone calls and cable services. Current law sets stricter enforcement access to “wire” communications, like telephone calls, than for “electronic” e-mail communications.
“More people now have easier access to our most personal information, from bank statements to our medical history. International narcotics traffickers can communicate with each other via computer messages. Hackers can destroy cyber property by defacing homepages and maliciously manipulating private information.”
Podesta also called for greater individual protections under government “trap and trace” orders – rules that allow government tracing devices, such as Carnivore, to track suspected individuals’ online activities.
“There should be greater judicial oversight of trap and trace authorities,” Podesta said, “Federal law should make clear that such orders should only be issued after a judicial officer has determined that the proper factual showing has been made.”
The fourth proposal focused on revising the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – making punishments for cyber-attacks fit the crime.
“Small attacks – those under $5,000 damage – should be treated as a misdemeanor and not a felony. But multiple attacks should be treated as one large attack and punished accordingly,” Podesta said.
The administration’s proposal also eliminates mandatory jail time for less serious cyber-crimes.
Though mainly a non-partisan speech, Podesta did not miss the chance to lash out at Congress, criticizing legislators for ignoring a $90 million White House cyber crime funding request.
“Good security needs to be updated constantly, and it costs money … unfortunately, to date, the Congress still refuses to appropriate one dime to put these initiatives in place.”