Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I have just become a cosponsor of S. 1726, the Commerce Promotion Act of 1996. This bill would remove export controls on encryption technology, a coding system enabling individuals and corporations to keep computer communications private.
Under current law, sophisticated encryption technology is sold without restriction in the United States. It is this technology that enables banks and other financial institutions to guarantee the confidentiality of personal and financial information. Furthermore, many analysts argue that concerns about security are restraining the Internet's growth as a commercial enterprise.
American-made software is the best in the world. Many foreign companies and individuals want to buy our products. However, because of concerns relating to international criminal activity, the U.S. Government refuses to allow the export of software that includes certain encryption technology.
The current policy is damaging American software companies. Foreign corporations and individuals will not pay top dollar for computer technology that cannot guarantee that personal information will stay private. As a result, our major trading partners are forced to buy software made outside the United States, costing American companies billions.
These export controls place U.S. software companies at a competitive disadvantage, giving foreign competitors the opportunity to encroach on our dominant position in the global marketplace. The United States enjoys a huge trade surplus in software. Our export policies should seek to strengthen U.S. companies, not give their competitors an unfair advantage.
I am very sensitive to the concerns raised by the Clinton administration about this issue. I strongly believe that U.S. intelligence agencies must retain the ability to intercept communications about terrorist attacks and other criminal acts. However, I am confident that this goal can be achieved without restraining the ability of U.S. companies to sell their products abroad for legitimate commercial uses.
Mr. President, we have a problem on our hands, but we can solve it. Congress and the administration must act together to pass an encryption technology reform bill this year.