Cryptography is not a weapon

IRIS Press Release - September 15th 1998 (original in French)

Today members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC: sent a statement to the representatives of the 33 nations who are signatories of the Wassenaar Arrangement, among them France. As a GILC member, and as the French coordinator of the international cryptography campaign, IRIS (Imaginons un réseau Internet solidaire, has signed this statement calling for the removal of cryptography from the list of dual-use goods and technologies, which export is restricted under the Wassenaar Arrangement terms.

The Wassenaar Arrangement has been signed in 1995. It establishes an international regime for the export control of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. A list of such items has been identified, and cryptography is part of this list.

The objective of the Wassenaar Arrangement is to prevent the accumulation of military capabilities that threaten regional and international security and stability. The Arrangement controls the export of cryptographic products as dual-use goods, i.e. having civilian and militarian applications. However, the Wassenaar Arrangement is only directed towards offensive weapons proliferation, and expressly excludes controls over mass market and public domian software.

GILC member statement shows that export controls are not justified by the Wassenaar Arrangement on cryptography, as a defensive technology, and that these controls contradict the principles of the Arrangement. Moreover, GILC member statement highlights the fact that export controls on cryptography prevent human rights activists from around the world from protecting their life and their freedom, and that they hurt law-abiding citizens and organizations without having any significant impact on the ability of criminals, terrorists or belligerent nations to obtain any cryptographic products they wish.

GILC members who has signed the statement call all the States which are signatories of the Wassenaar Arrangement, among them France, to recognize the negative impact of current export controls on cryptography products, and to remove these restrictions from future revisions of the Arrangement.

France is one of the very few countries in the world where the free use of strong cryptography is forbidden. Moreover, France is the only country in the world which has set up a key-escrow system. This isolated position is becoming more and more hardly compatible with its European Union membership, and its international position. As a matter of fact, the recent report of the French Conseil d'Etat on "Internet and the digital networks" (, part II, chapter 3) states that eventually, without such a compatibility, "the only requirement should be that cryptographic products used in France allow key recovery at the sender or the recipient initiative of the message, who will then be required to give himself the keys to law-enforcement authorities [...]". The Highest administrative Court of the country is thus highlighting the French contradiction, already analyzed in IRIS report to the French Conseil d'Etat, entitled "Individual and Public Liberties on the Internet" (, Annex VII).

IRIS particularly calls the French government to recognize that its application of the Wassenaar Arrangement, more strict than in most of the other signatories countries, is not fitting a civilized nation, and is even less acceptable from a nation claiming itself the "home of the human rights".

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. France has officially appointed Mr Robert Badinter to organize this celebration, and numerous events will be organized throughout the country. It is time for the government to stop ignoring the fundamental right of citizens to protect the confidentiality of their communications, guaranteed by Article 12 of the Declaration.

For more information, read:

- The French version of GILC members statement (
- GILC members statement in other languages (
- The site of the French coordination of the international cryptography campaign (

Contacts :
- François Sauterey ( - Tel : +33(0)140336846
- Meryem Marzouki ( - Tel : +33(0)144749239

(dernière mise à jour le 16/06/2019) -