In 1993 Al Gore was charged by a presidential directive to oversee
U.S. secure communications and encryption export policy. The vice
president is documented as running the high-tech federal export policy
from a White House Interagency Working Group that advised President
In 1994, Gore advised President Clinton to ban the export of books.
More precisely, in November 1994, the White House National Security
Council directly approved the decision to deny a request to export
encryption computer source code published in a book. The source code
appeared in text format on a diskette that was sold with the book in
retail store outlets.
A letter written by Wendy Sherman, then State Department Assistant
Secretary of Legislative Affairs, illustrates Al Gore and his encryption
policy. Not only was the letter provided to Bill Clements of the
National Security Council for White House approval, the document also
included a fax on the export problem titled “TO: Pres. Clinton.”
“The decision that controls should continue was based on several
considerations,” wrote Ms. Sherman. “The administration will continue
to restrict export of sophisticated encryption devices, both to preserve
our own foreign intelligence gathering capability and because of the
concerns of our allies who fear that strong encryption technology would
inhibit their law enforcement capabilities. One result of the
interagency review of Mr. Karn’s disk was a determination that the
source code on it is of such a strategic level as to warrant continued
State Department licensing.”
Of course, anyone wishing to purchase the disk of encryption source
code could do so from an insecure bookstore. The disk could easily pass
by Customs or the computer source code could even be e-mailed from an
anonymous account to any point on the globe. In addition, there are the
other dangerous possibilities that a terrorist could scan the source
code in with a scanner or even the old tried and true method of simply
keying in the source code from the printed text.
Another example of the Gore trade policy occurred in 1995. In
October 1995, Ron Brown led a trade mission to China. One deal the
administration struck with the Chinese leadership was for the leading
U.S. computer security company, RSA of California, to sell encryption
technology directly to the Chinese Laboratory Of Information Security.
LOIS is also known as the home of Chinese information warfare studies
for the People’s Liberation Army.
The deal between LOIS and RSA has Gore roots. In November of 1995,
Al Gore made a call from the White House to a DNC supporter named
Sanford Robertson. Al made that call on the taxpayer’s tab. Sanford
Robertson obliged by coughing up $100,000; $80,000 going to soft money
and $20,000 directly into Al Gore’s 1996 campaign fund.
In 1995 Sanford Robertson and his investment company, Robertson and
Stephens, were the investment bankers for Boston based Security Dynamics
Inc., a supplier of computer security systems. Robertson and Stephens
also sponsored Security Dynamics stock issues.
In 1995, Security Dynamics decided to purchase RSA of California.
Robertson and Stephens wrote the merger document between Security
Dynamics and RSA for a two million dollar fee. By April 1996, the merger
was completed, Security Dynamics bought RSA, and Robertson’s company
pocketed the fee.
There is evidence that Al Gore was not unaware of RSA and the
encryption exports to China. Gore had a previous official interest in
RSA. During a 1998 interview, RSA Chairman Jim Bidzos stated that Al
Gore was involved in a 1994 effort by the Clinton administration to
purchase RSA patent technology.
According to Bidzos, in 1994 the top legal counsel for Commerce
Secretary Ron Brown, Ginger Lew, met with the RSA chairman when the
Clinton administration launched an initiative to purchase some of RSA’s
patents. Curiously, Bidzos stated that Ms. Lew announced she was on a
mission from Vice President Al Gore.
“I did not meet with Al Gore on this,” answered Mr. Bidzos when asked
about the Vice President’s role in the patent purchase.
“Only Ginger Lew and four other lawyers, but they did say they were
there on his (Al Gore’s) authority. It was in early 1994, in March, I
think. I have never met personally with Al Gore (nor have I ever spoken
with him on the phone), only government representatives (Ginger Lew) who
claimed to be meeting me on his authority.”
Another example of Al Gore’s encryption export policy occurred when
Motorola determined it wanted to sell high-tech equipment to China.
Under the Clinton/Gore administration Motorola was able to sell
encrypted radios and the Iridium satellite encrypted control system to
“This is to request that your office initiate action to obtain a
waiver from requirement for individual export license notifications to
Congress for wireless mobile communications systems containing
encryption for China,” wrote Motorola executive Richard Barth to the
“Such a waiver was issued by the President in September of this year
for civilian satellite systems and encrypted products for use by
American firms operating in China,” noted Motorola executive Barth.
President Clinton eventually approved the Motorola request. By July
1995, the CEO of Motorola, Gary Tooker wrote a personal note to Ron
Brown, expressing his gratitude for Clinton’s signature approving the
encryption export to China.
“I am writing to thank you,” wrote Tooker. “And some key members of
the Commerce Department for your assistance in obtaining the
Presidential waiver for encryption export sales to China.”
There are other examples of the Clinton/Gore export policy. Under
Gore’s tenure Loral was able to export encrypted satellite and telemetry
control systems to the Chinese army. One such export, a board of
radiation hardened encryption electronics, was missing after a Chinese
space rocket crashed. The board has never been recovered.
According to a GAO report on encryption exports, the Clinton-Gore
administration approved the direct transfer of secure communications to
the Chinese army.
“Waivers were also granted to permit the export of encryption
equipment controlled on the Munitions List,” states the report. “One
case involved a $4.3-million communications export to China’s Air
Gore could have intervened with the Commerce Department or with
President Clinton directly and prevented the exports to China. Clearly,
Al Gore as administration guru on encryption approved the bent policies
that restrict the personal use of computer security software by
Americans while allowing the export of military level systems. The
Clinton/Gore policy to restrict the “export of sophisticated encryption
devices” may have included source code in a book but it did not include
military hardware for the People’s Liberation Army.