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Past Laws

The Cold War era saw export controls of technology being aimed at keeping US advanced technology away from the Soviet bloc and China. The fear was in the technology being used to further develop weapons of mass destruction to threaten domestic security. Since 1940, several laws have been made concerning export control of defense-related materials and "dual-use" items. Since most modern technology, especially computing-related, falls under "dual-use," these laws are important to look at as a foundation for the policy of the last decade.

Atomic Energy Act (August 1, 1946)

This act established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as the responsible entity for licensing exports and imports of nuclear materials. The Atomic Energy Act has been amended by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The NRC issues about 100 specific export licenses a year, but law subsequent to the Atomic Energy Act placed control of modern dual-use technologies under the State and Commerce Departments.

Arms Export Control Act (October 22, 1968)

Sales of defense products, components, services, and technologies are controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as administered by the State Department. The regulations contain a list of items considered munitions. Any item on the US Munitions List requires a license for exportation. In the past decade, different forms of software encryption has been on that list, due the the possibility that encryption can be used in encoding plans to threaten the United States. Defense goods and services are heavily restricted to countries the State Department deem enemy or terrorist states. In the past, these countries have included Afghanistan, China, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Vietnam.

Read the ITAR of 1992, including the US Munitions List (encryption in category XIII)

International Emergency Economic Powers Act, IEEPA (October 28, 1977)

This act gives the president broad authority over a range of trade with foreign countries after declaring a state of emergency. Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton have all declared economic states of emergency to direct the adminstration of export laws. Because of this act, the president has had a strong role in the current debate of technological export control.

Export Administration Act of 1979 (September 29, 1979)

In conjunction with the IEEPA, this act gives the president authority to control exports of US technology as necessary for national security, foreign policy, and short supply. The act expired in 1994, but presidential order has kept the EAA export controls in force since then, using the IEEPA. Since 1992 President Clinton has used emergency powers to outline policy concerning exportation of supercomputers and encryption. The Commerce Department also administers the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the guidelines by which all companies must follow for exportation.

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