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Encryption technology bolsters your privacy


Sept 9, 2002

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman, Chairman
The Honorable Fred Thompson, Ranking Member
Committee on Government Affairs
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510


Dear Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Thompson:

As representatives of our nation's information technology industry, we write in support of bi-partisan efforts to prevent the transfer of the Computer Security Division (CSD) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from the Department of Commerce to the proposed new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

We strongly support efforts to make our country more secure in the face of terrorist threats. CSD's job is to improve the security of civilian computer systems through technical standards and cooperation with industry. We are concerned that transferring CSD to the new DHS would be counterproductive to this goal and reduce confidence in American-made IT systems and products.

Moving CSD to the new DHS would undermine its credibility in working on technical standards. The credibility and success of NIST's CSD depends on effective independence from law enforcement and national security. We believe that CSD's independence could not be maintained in the new Department of Homeland Security.

The experience throughout the 1980's and early 1990's with efforts to promote computer security standards and limit the use of strong encryption revealed the significant influence of law enforcement and national security in the development of standards for "sensitive, unclassified" information. In contrast, we were pleased to finally see the announcement late last year of the new much improved Advanced Encryption Standard - the result of public-private partnership with the CSD.

In addition, the functions of the NIST CSD have a strong commercial nexus, and thus should remain at the Department of Commerce. Putting the CSD in the new DHS also would jeopardize CSD's open, collaborative processes. Finally, its location within NIST permits CSD and public-private partnerships to draw upon the valuable technical expertise of other NIST divisions.

As you know, the House acted on a strongly bi-partisan basis to keep the CSD in NIST. We urge the Senate to do the same.

Americans for Computer Privacy
Business Software Alliance
Information Technology Association of America
Information Technology Industry Council
Software & Information Industry Association
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