The new FCC ruling on removing the baud rate limit on HF has some opponents. In a complaint to the FCC, NYU professor Dr. Theodore Rappaport complains that removing the baud rate may be a concern to national security interests. From his official letter:
The public records in the above cited proceedings make clear how the evolution of undocumented, proprietary transmission technologies such as Pactor and Winlink, ARDOP, Winmor, STANAG, and other HF transmission schemes that use controlling software (e.g., Winlink, which was designed for secure commercial and government maritime mobile radio systems) have created a national security problem in the amateur radio service, such that 3 rd parties (e.g. other ham radio operators, or the FCC listening stations, themselves) cannot intercept and decode over-the-air transmissions when used in the popular Automated Repeat Request (ARQ) mode. Thus, Winlink with Pactor, and Winlink with ARDOP, Winmor, STANAG, or other modulations, cannot be intercepted or deciphered, over-the-air, by other amateur radio operators or the general public, thereby enabling users of the amateur radio service to provide obscured, private communications.
In my personal conversations with FBI and FCC officials, they admit they also are unable to readily decode these types of transmissions. In my discussions with vendors of amateur radio equipment, they tell me that they are concerned about purchases of amateur radio equipment by criminal cartels, and that they believe it is happening daily.
It doesn’t seem especially related to us that upping or removing bandwidth limits would necessarily result in national security problems per se. First, the airwaves aren’t exclusively American. So while the FCC can control radio operators in the United States, that isn’t the entire problem. Second, enforcement is lax but doesn’t have to be and anyone who really wants to compromise national security will probably flaunt the law anyway. And finally, anyone who really wants to send secret messages can probably do it over other means and/or use steganography to conceal their encoding.