The Hill: Reps urge Trump administration to fix cyber trade agreement

The Hill: Reps urge Trump administration to fix cyber trade agreement

By Joe Uchill

A bipartisan slate of representatives with cybersecurity chops is pressuring President Trump’s top national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to change an export agreement many believe weakens international cybersecurity.  

The Wassenaar Arrangement is an annual nonbinding agreement among around 40 nations that creates export policies for civilian technologies with military uses.

In 2013, Wassenaar made efforts to add militarized spyware to that list.

But the rules did not take the subtleties of cybersecurity into account, and some of its restrictions can prevent the sharing of cybersecurity research and information about threats.

In 2015, 125 members of Congress wrote a letter to national security adviser Susan Rice to pressure the State Department to renegotiate the arrangement. On Friday, seven key representatives sent a letter her successor, Flynn, to do the same.

“The U.S. stands only to disadvantage itself strategically and economically against foreign competitors by subjecting its firms to the administrative burden involved in applying for an export license each time they wish to conduct simple information sharing activities with international subsidiaries, partners, or clients,” reads the letter.

Signing the letter were Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus; Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity; House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah); and Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), chairman of the Oversight subcommittee on information technology.

The House initially pushed for Rice’s involvement because the State Department appeared hesitant to renegotiate an agreement already implemented in nearly all of the other Wassenaar countries.

In 2016, State renegotiated the rules, but critics felt the changes left many of the same problems as the 2013 version.

The letter says Flynn should quickly reconvene an interagency force to develop a firm stance for Wassenaar’s 2017 plenary. Action is urgent, it says, because proposals for agenda items are due this month. The representatives ask Flynn for an update no later than Friday of next week.