The Justice Department said today it is considering
what further legal measures it will take following yesterday's ruling by
the U.S. District Court in San Francisco that certain aspects of the
government's regulations on the export of encryption software are
unconstitutional. Another federal court upheld the export controls on
The Administration is committed to promoting the legitimate use of
encryption. Through encryption--or the coding of messages--businesses
can protect trade secrets, hospitals can safeguard medical records, and
individuals can be assured that personal messages on the information
superhighway remain private.
But, as President Clinton stated upon issuing an Executive Order on this
subject on November 15, 1996, the use of encryption products by
unfriendly parties outside the United States can jeopardize the foreign
policy and national security interests of the United States, and public
safety of U.S. citizens.
Judicial proceedings in Bernstein v. Department of State are not yet
concluded, and the decision governs only that case. In March 1996, in
another pending case in Washington, D.C., Karn v. Department of State,
the District Court ruled that export controls on encryption software are
constitutional under the First Amendment and serve important interests
of the United States. That case is still pending to consider export
controls on encryption now administered by the Commerce Department.
Until this issue is resolved, export controls on encryption software
remain in place. Individuals or companies wishing to export encryption
software by any means must continue to adhere to applicable export
licensing controls on such software before exporting it abroad.