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 Court Dismisses Case Challenging Export Controls
A federal district court in Washington, D.C. on March 22 dismissed a case brought by privacy activist Phil Karn challenging the constitutionality of export controls on cryptography. In February 1994, Karn applied for a license to export cryptographer Bruce Schneier's book "Applied Cryptography." The State Department approved the license, but shortly thereafter, denied Karn's request for a license to export a disk set which contained text files of different cryptographic algorithms that were printed in the book. Karn filed suit, claiming that the denial violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.
The court rejected all of Karn's claims, stating that the case presented a "political question for the two elected branches" to decide. It found that the Arms Export Control Act precluded judicial review of administrative decisions concerning the applicability the "Munitions List," a regulatory listing of items that may not be exported.
On the First Amendment claim, the court held that the restrictions were "content neutral" because the government is "not regulating the export because of the expressive content of the comments and or source code, but instead [is] regulating because of the belief that the combination of encryption source code on machine readable media will make it easier for foreign governments to encode their communications."
More information on the case and on export controls is available at:
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