Political Ramifications

Two departments of the government affect cryptography:

NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
     NIST was created by the US Department of Commerce. In the 1987 Computer Secrecy Act, NIST was given the job to work with government agencies and private corporations to establish security standards. Unfortunately, it tends to be a lame duck. The two main projects it has endorsed for cryptography, (the Digital Signature Standard and the Escrowed encryption System) is used by almost no one, including the government which it was supposed to standardize.

NSA (National Security Agency)
     NSA was created by Harry Truman in 1952. It is agency which constantly blocks any exportation of cryptography technology over the Internet, crippling US industries that develop this technology. The NSA's reasoning for forbidding export is that they fear the terrorists will use US encryption systems to encode their messages, therefore promoting terrorist attacks on the US and threatening national security. For this reason , exporting encryption technology can be punishable by a fine of one million dollars and ten years in prison. Industry criticizes this thinking for two reasons:

     1. the Soviet Union has fallen and we should move out of the Cold War mentality, and
     2. commercially available public key cryptography tools have spread around the world and several foreign companies are producing the technology.


     Needless to say, the NSA is not a popular for stunting the US industry's profits overseas. It has largely been seen as censorship. Although books containing encryption information has been allowed to be exported, information on the Internet is greatly restricted. The only technology that can be exported is technology with a modulus under 512 bits and technology used for authentication of messages (must prove that the technology cannot be used for encryption purposes.)

     But on August 26, 1997, a