You heard right. Not only are we in the midst of a national emergency, Bush has extended it. The national emergency isn’t what you might think, though.
On August 17, 2001, consistent with the authority provided me under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 170l et seq.), I issued Executive Order 13222. In that order, I declared a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States in light of the expiration of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended (50 U.S.C. App. 2401 et seq.). Because the Export Administration Act has not been renewed by the Congress, the national emergency declared on August 17, 2001, must continue in effect beyond August 17, 2005. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13222.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress. — George W. Bush, August 2, 2005
What in hell is he talking about? What national emergency was declared on August 17, 2001, and why didn’t we hear anything about it? Why does it need to continue? And what does encryption have to do with it?
We have to backtrack to Executive Order 13222, and in there we find that the Export Administration Act of 1979 was allowed to expire by Congress. So elder Bush renewed it via national emergency fiat in 1991, Clinton renewed it as well, and now our current George Bush has renewed it yet again. Again, why?
If Bush didn’t sign that “national emergency” paperwork, then the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security would lose some of its regulatory power. That’s because Congress never extended the Export Administration Act after it lapsed. — News.com
Those are the people who regulate exports to foreign countries, including and especially encryption technology.
Without the declaration of national emergency, people in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and a few other places might be able to get hold of American encryption.
Encryption is especially important for people living under oppressive government regimes, for it allows them to communicate without anyone learning the content of their communications. Attempting to suppress it just makes matters worse for people who would like to escape tyrannical regimes. The Internet has made this largely irrelevant; it’s fairly easy for someone to bypass the export regulations and lay hands on military grade American encryption.
The Supreme Court has unfortunately upheld the use of national emergency to bypass the Constitution and institute regulations on Americans which would have been otherwise impossible.
“Only an emergency can justify repression.” — Louis D. Brandeis