Crypto Export Controls on Trial - Come on Down!
On October 20th in San Francisco, we'll have the first public hearing
in the EFF/Bernstein lawsuit, which seeks to have the export laws on
cryptography declared unconstitutional. You are invited!
Meet at the Federal Building in San Francisco, 450 Golden Gate Avenue.
The first "oral arguments" in the Bernstein crypto export case will
happen there, starting at 10:30am PST, in Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's
courtroom, upstairs. We've been FedExing legalese back and forth for
months; now we get to explain the case in person. You can meet our
intrepid lawyers, who are slaving away without pay, _in_durance_vile_,
to protect our rights! Shake hands with an NSA lawyer specially flown
in for the occasion! Meet some local journalists! And watch the
wheels of justice grind as the judge first explores our case.
In this case, Dan Bernstein, ex-grad-student from UC Berkeley, is
suing the State Department, NSA, and other agencies, with help from
EFF. Our main argument is that the export controls on crypto software
are a "prior restraint on publication" which is unconstitutional under
the First Amendment unless handled very delicately by a court (not just
by an agency acting on its own). These agencies restrained Dan's ability
to publish a paper, as well as source code, for the crypto algorithm that
he invented. There are additional arguments along the lines that the
State Department and NSA take a lot more liberties during the export
process than their own regulations and laws really permit.
Like Phil Karn's case, this lawsuit really has the potential to outlaw
the whole NSA crypto export scam. We could make your right to publish
and export crypto software as well-protected by the courts as your
right to publish and export books. Of course, the government would
appeal any such decision, and it will take years and probably an
eventual Supreme Court decision to make it stick. But you can be
there at the very beginning.
Please make a positive impression on the judge. Show her -- by
showing up -- that this case matters to more people than just the
plaintiff and defendant. That how it gets decided will make a
difference to society. That the public and the press are watching,
and really do care that it gets handled well. We'll have to be quiet
and orderly while we're in the courthouse. There will be no questions
from the audience (that's us), but the session will be tape-recorded,
and you can take notes if you like. Banners and inflamatory t-shirts are
probably not a good idea. Consider this a dress-up day.
The particular issue in front of Judge Patel on the 20th is whether the
case should be thrown out. The government is arguing that it should.
It's a mess of legal details about whether the Judicial Branch has the
right to decide questions like this, and over whether we have really
properly claimed a Constitutional rights violation. It will teach
most observers something about how the courts work, and how the NSA and
State Dept use bureaucratic tricks to avoid facing the real issues.
We have managed to drag in some of these issues, like whether there is
sufficient "expression" in software that the First Amendment should
protect publishers of software. It's possible, but unlikely, that the
judge will decide then-and-there. We will get some clues to how
she is leaning, based on her questions and comments. Her written
decision will come out some days or weeks later.
Don't bring any interesting devices unless you're willing to check
them with the lobby guards for the duration. They seem to want to
hold onto guns, "munitions", and even small pocketknives, before
they'll let you go upstairs to the courtrooms.