FBI backs action on security bill

The FBI sought Congress' support Tuesday to increase law enforcement capabilities investigating crime on the Internet, including voicing support for a bill introduced by President Clinton to help law enforcement gather evidence in a world where more and more people are using encryption.

The Cyberspace Electronic Security Act (CESA), which Clinton introduced last September to balance relaxed export regulations, has not made much progress through Congress.

Many have worried about its chances for success, but CESA is a vital part of the many mechanisms the law enforcement community needs to function in the electronic world, FBI Director Louis Freeh testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information Subcommittee.

"The enactment of the CESA legislative proposal is supported by the law enforcement community...and I strongly encourage its favorable consideration by Congress," Freeh said in his written testimony.

The Justice and Defense departments and other law enforcement agencies had blocked the export of encryption for many years for fear that it would hamper their ability to collect evidence in cyberattacks and crime, but last year they agreed to the new regulations in return for the authority provided in the bill.

CESA would:

* Protect sensitive investigative techniques and industry trade secrets from disclosure in trials.

* Authorize $80 million for the FBI to create a Technical Support Center that would serve as a resource for federal, state and local law enforcement to counter encryption during investigations.

* Ensure that law enforcement can access decryption information stored with third parties but protect that information from any other use or release.

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