Last Updated By Endtime Prophecy Net : July 29, 2011
Congress Probes FBI's E-Mail Use
By D. IAN HOPPER Associated Press Writer
July 24, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lawmakers of both parties grilled FBI
officials Monday over the bureau's use of "Carnivore," a
device designed to monitor and capture e-mail messages in a
Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., called the hearings amid
concerns from privacy groups about an ordinary computer
filled with special software that the FBI calls a
"reasonable balance" between privacy and law enforcement
in an age where crime has gone online.
"Carnivore raises the question as to whether existing
statutes protecting citizens from 'unreasonable searches and
seizures' under the Fourth Amendment appropriately balance
the concerns of law enforcement and privacy," said Canady,
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Constitution
"There seems to me to be a growing level of generalized
concern about Big Brotherism that I suspect is being fed by
the increasing electronic world," said Rep. Melvin L. Watt,
FBI officials defended Carnivore and the bureau's use of the
tool to Canady's panel, saying it is used only with proper
legal authorization _ in many cases coming from both a
senior Justice Department official and a judge.
The FBI likened Carnivore to a traditional telephone tap,
saying both need probable cause to be undertaken.
Carnivore is the term used for the entire system, a computer
running the Microsoft Windows NT operating system and
software that scans and captures packets, the standard unit
of Internet traffic, as they travel through an Internet
Service Provider's network. The FBI can install a Carnivore
unit at an ISP's network station and configure it to capture
only e-mail going to or from the person under investigation.
FBI officials said Carnivore has been used 25 times,
including 16 times this year. None of those cases has yet
gone to trial, so the FBI would not disclose detailed
information about them.
Donald M. Kerr, director of the FBI's laboratory division,
said Carnivore searches only the sender and recipient lines
of e-mail, not the subject line, as was previously reported.
It does not search through the message content for keywords,
nor does it monitor Web browsing _ except for Web-based
e-mail _ or Instant Messaging, just e-mail traffic,
Privacy advocates and some lawmakers voiced concern that
only the FBI truly knows what Carnivore does, since after it
is installed it is neither supervised nor checked by an
ISP's technicians; there isn't even a mouse or keyboard
attached for someone to access the machine.
"When you see some things that have happened here in
Washington, it gives one reason to worry," said Judiciary
Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill.
To find out, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a
Freedom of Information Act request last week for Carnivore's
source code, the inner workings of how the device functions.
The FBI gave a preview of its objections to the FOIA
request, explaining why the bureau wouldn't want Carnivore's
innermost details to be public.
"We would have a problem with full open disclosure, because
that, in fact, would allow anyone who chose to develop
techniques to spoof what we do an easy opportunity to figure
out how to do that," Kerr said.
FBI officials reiterated an earlier plan to show an
independent panel of academic and industry experts exactly
how Carnivore works, and opened the door to regular checks.
Deputy Associate Attorney General Kevin V. DiGregory said
that for a "rogue FBI agent" to circumvent the law, "he
would need to engage the aid of technical people, perhaps
even technical people at the Internet service provider, and
he would also have to find some way to cover up or change
the audit trail that is left by the system so that it
doesn't expose his going beyond the court order."
Legislators seemed unconvinced.
"I don't know if we have any way of verifying that the
technological part of the response to my question that
you've given me, and I know that unfortunately in the past,
we've had many agencies, including law enforcement, that
have gone beyond the scope of their responsibility," said
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the Judiciary Committee's top
Democrat. "There's hardly anything new about that."