Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft


[Hoert! Hoert! Hier wird (ausnahmsweise) mal die Wahrheit gesagt - es geht zuvorderst um die NSA, nicht um die Bekaempfung der Kriminalitaet. (ECHELON gehoert zu SIGINT) --AHH]

5 March 1999 Source:

USIS Washington File _________________________________

04 March 1999


(McNamara cites risk to intelligence gathering) (850)

Washington -- A National Security Agency (NSA) official says legislation that would essentially eliminate export controls for commercial encryption software would place U.S. national security at risk by preventing timely gathering of intelligence.

In March 4 testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee, NSA Deputy Director Barbara McNamara explained how her agency intercepts encrypted communications signals from foreign adversaries, unscrambles them and prepares intelligence reports for U.S. decision makers and military commanders.

"Very often, time is of the essence," she said. "Intelligence is perishable; it is worthless if we can not provide it in time to make a difference in rendering vital decisions."

McNamara said the bill would accelerate widespread proliferation of encryption software of strength impossible for NSA to decrypt.

The bill, which has 205 House cosponsors, is called the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) Act.

Following is the text of McNamara's text as submitted for the subcommittee's record:

(begin excerpt)

It is the signals intelligence (SIGINT) role that I want to address today. Our principal responsibility is to ensure a strong national security environment by providing timely information that is essential to critical military and policy decision making. NSA intercepts and analyzes the communications signals of our foreign adversaries, many of which are guarded by codes and other complex electronic countermeasures. From these signals, we produce vital intelligence reports for national decision makers and military commanders. Very often, time is of the essence. Intelligence is perishable; it is worthless if we can not provide it in time to make a difference in rendering vital decisions.

For example, SIGINT proved its worth in World War II when the United States broke the Japanese naval code and learned of their plans to invade Midway Island. This intelligence significantly aided the U.S. defeat of the Japanese fleet. Subsequent use of SIGINT helped shorten the war. NSA continues today to provide vital intelligence to the warfighter and the policy maker in time to make a difference for our nation's security. Demands on us in this arena have only grown since the break-up of the Soviet Union and have expanded to address other national security threats such as terrorism, weapons proliferation, and narcotic trafficking, to name a few.

Please do not confuse the needs of national security with the needs of law enforcement. The two sets of interests and methods vary considerably and must be addressed separately. The law enforcement community is concerned about the use of non-recoverable encryption by persons engaged in illegal activity domestically. At NSA, we are primarily focused on preserving export controls on encryption to protect national security.

While our mission is to provide intelligence to help protect the country's security, we also recognize that there must be a balanced approach to the encryption issue. The interests of industry and privacy groups, as well as of the Government, must be taken into account. Encryption is a technology that will allow our citizens to fully participate in the 21st Century world of electronic commerce. It will enhance the economic competitiveness of U.S. industry. It will combat unauthorized access to private information and it will deny adversaries from gaining access to U.S. information wherever it may be in the world.

To promote this balanced approach, we are engaged in an ongoing and productive dialogue with industry. The recent Administration update to the export control regulations addresses many industry concerns and has significantly advanced the ability of U.S. vendors to participate in overseas markets. Of equal significance, the Wassenaar nations, representing most major producers and users of encryption, agreed unanimously in December 1998 to control strong hardware and software encryption to be exported for foreign financial institutions. The criteria for exporting encryption to these institutions should not be the basis for decontrolling other encryption exports. Allowing favorable treatment for specific classes of end-users may be appropriate in cases such as those involving banks and other financial institutions which are well regulated and have a good record of providing access to lawful requests for information. Requiring the blanket approval of exports to all other end-users in a country would eliminate important national security end-use considerations for these exports.

In summary, the SAFE Act will harm national security by making NSA's job of providing vital intelligence to our leaders and military commanders difficult, it not impossible, thus putting our nation's security at some considerable risk. Our nation cannot have an effective decision-making process, or a strong fighting force, or a responsive law enforcement community unless the intelligence information required to support them is available in time to make a difference. The nation needs a balanced encryption policy that allows U.S. industry to continue to be the world's technology leader, but that policy must also protect our national security interests.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Subcommittee and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

(end excerpt)