Bush OKs Double Speed
Supercomputers For China,
India, Pakistan

WASHINGTON: President Bush more than doubled the limit on the speed of supercomputers that US companies can sell to such countries as China, Pakistan and India, a move some critics said endangers US security. Under the new guidelines, US producers of supercomputers can export hardware capable of running at 190,000 millions of theoretical operations per second without notifying the federal government. The current cap is 85,000 MTOPS.

"The president's decision will promote national security, enhance the effectiveness of our export-control system and ease unnecessary regulatory burdens on both government and industry," the White House said. "This has nothing to do with national security," said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington. "We're worried about nuclear war in India and Pakistan, but we're giving both countries the means to make better nuclear weapons and better missiles to deliver them with," he said.

"Their argument is that our computer companies will make more money, and what's good for the computer industry makes America stronger because it creates jobs and brings money in. National security's being equated to profits," he said. "That's what they mean when they say that. It's not true, of course."

Critics noted that supercomputers that run at such high speeds are used only for two purposes: code decryption and nuclear-weapons development. Stephen Bryen, director of Aurora Defense in Bethesda, said, "What they really have in mind is keeping alive the supercomputer companies. That's the only argument they can make that fits.

Bush notified congressional leaders that he was raising the threshold for government approval of computer exports to "Tier 3" nations, which the White House said includes India, Pakistan, all of the Middle East, the countries of the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and parts of southeastern Europe.

"These reforms are needed due to the rapid rate of technological change in the computer industry. Single microprocessors available today - by mail order and the Internet - perform at more than 25 times the speed of supercomputers built in the early 1990s," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

"These changes will advance the president's goal of updating the US export-control system so that it protects US national security and, at the same time, allows America's high-tech companies to innovate and successfully compete in today's marketplace," the spokesman added. The United States will continue to maintain strict limits on computer exports to nations under US sanctions, such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

The issue has been contentious since the Clinton administration, when congressional leaders opposed moves to raise the caps and to drop any distinction between military and civilian buyers. The computer industry has been pushing for the higher cap, which prompted Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign to pledge he would raise the threshold.

In October 2000, then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, strongly objected when President Clinton raised the cap to 28,000 MTOPS, a threshold that has been raised since.

The News International, Pakistan

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