Carnivore: Justice Dept. Seeks Carnivore Review

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Last Updated By Bill's Bible Basics :
February 16, 2017

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN Associated Press Writer

August 24, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department formally asked outside technical experts Thursday to review whether the FBI's "Carnivore" e-mail surveillance system has adequate protections against abuse.

The department posted a 63-page description of the technical review on its website for bids by outside contractors. It hopes a major university will undertake and complete the task this fall.

The technical review, to be followed by public comment and an internal Justice Department review, is designed to present Attorney General Janet Reno with recommendations by Dec. 8 on how to respond to criticism of the system from Congress and privacy advocates.

David Sobel, counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, said that, while the review would be "a good exercise to add to the knowledge about Carnivore, this review will not be able to resolve all the questions, either technical or legal."

The Carnivore system, installed by the FBI on the network of Internet service providers, has software that scans Internet traffic as it moves through that provider's network. The FBI says it configures the software to capture e-mail to or from someone under investigation and that court orders limit which e-mails agents can see.

But privacy advocates say only the FBI knows what Carnivore can do, and Internet providers are not allowed access to the system. They ask why the FBI retains remote control of Carnivore equipment and doesn't just give it to Internet providers so they can comply with court orders.

The government's review description said it wants to know:

_ If the operators obey the law, will Carnivore provide agents with all the information they ought to see, but only that information?

_ Will Carnivore risk harming an internet service provider's network?

_ Does Carnivore introduce new risks that FBI agents or others will gain intentional or unintentional access to electronic communications they have no right to see?

_ Are Carnivore's operational procedures and built-in protections adequate to prevent such unauthorized access?

Sobel said those questions "underscore the other question: Why is the government refusing to suspend use pending review when there are all these serious about its use? It seems irresponsible to keep using a system that raises this many questions."

Assistant Attorney General Steve Colgate, head of the internal review team, said the system remains in operation, under court orders and general oversight by Justice Department lawyers.

Last month, FBI officials told Congress that Carnivore has been used 25 times, including in 10 national security and six domestic criminal cases this year. None of the cases has gone to trial, so the FBI has not disclosed details.

Prospective contractors were asked to submit proposals by Sept. 6. Reno will pick one by Sept. 15. The contract is to be awarded Sept. 25. A report is due by Nov. 17. And a final version of the report, incorporating public comment, is due Dec. 8.

Sobel noted, however, that the entire technical review will not be made public for comment. "There's a real question how much the public will see," he said.

The department said that as much of the report would be released as possible, but not trade secrets of the contractors who developed it or anything that would undermine "the effectiveness of Carnivore as a tool" for law enforcement.

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