An Illinois university professor faces possible arrest today [Monday] when begins teaching a cryptography class despite winning legal permission to do so last month.
In mid-December, Daniel Bernstein, a professor at the University of Illinois, was granted permission to teach an encryption course at his university after District Court Judge Marilyn Patel decided that the government?s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) - which covered encryption - were a breach of freedom of speech principles guaranteed by the US constitution.
But legislation brought in on 1 January mean that ITAR rules no longer apply to software cryptography, but are superseded by new regulations agreed following months of often tense negotiation between the US IT industry and the Clinton administration. The new rules are intended to ease up on the draconian encryption export regulations in the US.
But they have the knock-on effect that Bernstein could theoretically be arrested when he stands up in class today to begin teaching his cryptography course because there will be non-US students present to whom encryption software will be given. The professor also plans to publish encryption details on the Internet as part of the course.
His lawyers wrote to the Department of Justice on 30 December to ask for a delay in implementing the laws in order to allow Judge Patel time to make a further ruling. The letter said the new legislation undermines Patel?s earlier decision.
"The imposition of the new regulatory scheme means that despite Judge Patel?s order, Professor Bernstein is once again at risk of prosecution for his intended activities in conjunction with his teaching," it read.
The letter went on to ask for assurances from the Justice Department that Bernstein would not be prosecuted and that foreign students would be allowed to take their course materials, including software, home with them when they complete the course. No response has come from the Justice Department.
Meanwhile the US Court of Appeal has begun hearing evidence in a suit brought by cryptographer Philip Karn in 1995 when he was forbidden to export a disk carrying source code already published and exported in paper form in the book Applied Cryptography. Printed material carrying encryption code does not come under encryption regulations, but the 1 January rules do ban the export of disks.
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