Justice Department seeks university to review Carnivore

Justice Department seeks university to review Carnivore

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Aug. 10—The Justice Department plans to select a university to review Carnivore, the FBI's e-mail filtering application, Attorney General Janet Reno announced today.

Carnivore, when installed on an Internet service provider's network, intercepts e-mail messages intended for a specific address when authorized under a court order.

The Justice Department plans to reach out to "major universities to try to retain such a university with expertise in the area to review the Carnivore system and provide a report on the findings," Reno said at a media briefing.

Justice will consult with the privacy and law enforcement communities to make the final selection, she said. The selected university review team will have "total access to any information they need to conduct their review."

Interested parties will be briefed on the team's findings, which will be available for public comment. A Justice panel will review and analyze the university team's report and any public comments.

The Justice panel will include the department's chief science and technology officer, chief privacy officer, criminal division representatives and the assistant director of the FBI Laboratory Division. An official from the Justice Management Division will head the panel.

On July 27, 28 members of Congress in a letter to Reno asked the FBI to stop using Carnivore.

"Consumer confidence in the privacy and security of the Internet are essential for continued growth of electronic commerce. People should feel secure that the federal government is not reading their e-mail, no matter how worthy the objective," the letter said.

If the FBI convinces Congress the system will not violate privacy rights, the lawmakers said they would consider approving its further use. The bureau's use of Carnivore to monitor specified e-mail exchanges, as approved under court order, is similar to its use of a wiretap to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, FBI officials said.

Members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution last month grilled FBI and Justice officials about the system. The hearing addressed concerns over whether the tool violates Fourth Amendment privacy protections [see story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no22/news/2607-1.html].

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