- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2015

More than a quarter of the House of Representatives asked the Obama administration in a letter this week to reconsider proposed rules for exporting certain software amid concerns that restrictions would significantly harm national security.

Reps. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat, and Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, are the first signatories among a group of 126 congressmen who wrote National Security Adviser Susan Rice a letter Wednesday regarding the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime that controls the transfer of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, including software considered to be hacking tools.

Proposed changes to the deal would categorize certain technology as “intrusion software” and impose new restrictions which the lawmakers worry would “seriously hinder national security” unless a significant overhaul is undertaken, the letter cautions.

“We agree that the export of sophisticates hacking technologies to criminal organizations or repressive regimes is a legitimate national security concern,” the representatives wrote. “However, it is vitally important that the rule created to improve national security — by preventing these software exports — does not itself impair security efforts and we strong believe the initial rule, as proposed by the [Bureau of Industry and Security], would have done just that.”

That language needs to be modified because restricting the export of software that allows someone to break into a system creates obstacles for security researchers who use those same tools to conduct legitimate audits and tests, the lawmakers contended.

The top Republican to sign the letter, Mr. McCaul, told The Hill this week that while the Wassenaar Arrangement “seems like this relatively obscure issue,” he’s managed to drum up support among his colleagues quicker than he could have imagined.

“I think this is important enough that that this needs to be looked at from a national security perspective to make sure the rule is written in the right way,” added Mr. Langevin, the top Democrat signatory.

Language from the Cyberinformation Sharing and Protection Act, or CISA — a measure which would provide incentives to private corporations that share information about online threats with the federal government — was included in the massive omnibus spending plan approved by Congress on Friday.

If signed by the president as expected, the bill will codify the nation’s first law specifically aimed at curbing cyberthreats through information sharing. Critics, however, said the bill they fear the bill could be abused to enable the surveillance of Internet users under the guise of cybersecurity.

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