Clinton aides fight for cybersecurity bill

Senior Clinton administration officials are urging Congress to support a

bill that would provide a defense against criminals who now have access

to more secure communications thanks to new encryption export

regulations released this month.

In a letter to House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) dated Jan. 7,

Attorney General Janet Reno said the Cyberspace Electronic Security Act

(CESA) is a "critical component" to the administration's new security

and encryption policy.

CESA would be used to balance law enforcement's concerns that new

encryption export regulations, which allow U.S. vendors to sell stronger

encryption products overseas, will make it harder for agencies,

including the Justice and Defense departments, to track and catch

criminals and terrorists.

"We believe that passage of CESA is critically important to ensure

continued legitimate law enforcement access in the face of greater use

of encryption," Reno stated. Deputy secretary of Defense John Hamre and

Commerce Secretary William Daley co-signed the letter.

The letter also responded to concerns from Armey and civil rights

advocates about a section in the original version of CESA that would

have allowed law enforcement agencies to execute search warrants without

informing the person whose property they were searching right away. The

administration removed that section in its revision of the bill and does

not plan to rely on new legislation to gain such rights, according to

the letter.

"Although we continue to be concerned that criminals and terrorists will

use strong encryption to cloak their communications and other evidence

of illicit activities from authorized law enforcement investigations, we

will attempt to use general authorities to meet this threat," the letter

states.

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