Tags: Report | Says | Carnivore | Tame; | Critics | Skeptical

Report Says Carnivore Is Tame; Critics Skeptical

Wednesday, 22 November 2000 12:00 AM

Henry H. Perritt Jr., dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law and leader of the review team, also issued technical recommendations for making Carnivore more accurate and easier for FBI agents to operate.

The FBI developed Carnivore in 1997 to monitor the activities of suspects who communicate using e-mail, much the way the agency uses wiretaps and pen registers to monitor telephone calls and capture caller information. Privacy advocates have expressed concern the tool is too powerful, too invasive and a potential danger to civil liberties.

"The core of the debate is whether there are adequate legal protections for citizens, and I think it's clear that question has not been addressed in this report," said Alan Davidson of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Davidson contended the study uncovered previously unknown Carnivore capabilities.

"It appears Carnivore is capable of collecting large amounts of information, including much of what passes through a particular Internet service provider, not just to a particular user," he said. The report, however, specifically said Carnivore does not have the capability "to spy on almost everyone with an e-mail account."

In his report, Perritt said he found few instances of the FBI using Carnivore to "over-collect" data, but did find several instances where it did not collect enough. The report also raised questions about accountability, suggesting more safeguards to prevent abuse of the powerful tool.

It is that area of the report that most concerns privacy advocates. David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center said Tuesday's report underscored the need for more information about Carnivore's capabilities.

"The little information that has become public raises serious questions about the privacy implications of this technology," Sobel said.

"The American public cannot be expected to accept an Internet snooping system that is veiled in secrecy." Sobel maintained that under existing law, Carnivore is an illegal device.

Davidson agreed that the last word about Carnivore had yet to be spoken. "The FBI is a long way from settling this issue."

He predicted Congress would hold oversight hearings early in the next session and perhaps draft new privacy laws to govern spying in the digital age.

"This technology is evolving all the time and future generations of it will be even more sophisticated. The snapshot provided in this report does not provide confidence for the public," Davidson said.

Sobel also expects congressional action, saying the issue cuts across party lines and the political spectrum.

On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, issued a statement suggesting Tuesday's report was "a whitewash."

"The Department of Justice stacked the deck for this report. It selected reviewers and set the rules in order to ensure they would get the best possible review," Armey said.

In their report, Perritt and his team recommend the FBI continue to use Carnivore when precise collection of information is required "because Carnivore can be configured to reflect the limitations of a court order." The report also urged the FBI to "provide individual accountability for all Carnivore actions."

The team will issue a final report Dec. 8.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Henry H. Perritt Jr., dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law and leader of the review team, also issued technical recommendations for making Carnivore more accurate and easier for FBI agents to operate. The FBI developed Carnivore in...
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Wednesday, 22 November 2000 12:00 AM
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