FBI changes name of its controversial e-mail wiretapping app to DCS1000

FBI changes name of its controversial e-mail wiretapping app to DCS1000

BY MATT MCLAUGHLIN | GCN STAFF

One thing the FBI's controversial Internet wiretapping software won't have going against it anymore is its name.

The agency last month changed the name of its Carnivore application to DCS1000'for digital collection system'FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.
Critics of Carnivore, however, said the new name wasn't the change they were looking for.

'The only thing we've seen come out of the FBI or the Justice Department is the new name, which is a matter of public relations more than anything else,' said Paul Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy In-formation Center. 'But I haven't seen any changes that are a response to the criticisms of Carnivore.'

The filtering program, which can collect and examine e-mail messages of subjects under investigation, has been criticized by privacy advocates who have expressed concern about its potential for intrusiveness.

Privacy concerns

The name Carnivore contributed to the perception of a predatory program that could invade citizens' privacy.

'A lot of people are of the opinion that had it not been for the name, it wouldn't have received nearly the same amount of controversy,' Bresson said.

But he said the FBI has made other upgrades as well in response to recommendations made in November by a review panel at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Research Institute at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Bresson declined to specify the changes, but said they would be spelled out in a report that the Justice Department will release shortly.

EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the FBI's data on the program and received 565 pages of information on Oct. 2, 2000. The privacy group, however, wants still more information from the agency.

'Our litigation regarding the disclosure of information about Carnivore is ongoing,' Sobel said. 'The FBI has released everything they're going to release, so we will have to see how the courts rule on our lawsuits for more information over the next few months.'

Among the documents released to EPIC was a report that said testing showed Carnivore could 'reliably capture and archive all unfiltered traffic to the internal hard drive' of the computer running the program.

The passage raised additional questions from EPIC, which has expressed concern about the FBI's ability to capture e-mail that isn't specified in a court order, which the FBI must obtain before deploying the filtering app.

Senate inquiry

Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the FBI asking Director Louis J. Freeh to explain why the bureau tested for such an ability.

Donald M. Kerr, assistant director of the FBI's Laboratory Division, responded in a Jan. 21 letter that the clause from the report the senators referred to was taken out of context.

Kerr added that the program could only capture all the unfiltered traffic from a 'very small' Internet service provider and that the bureau could not foresee any circumstances under which such a capability would be used.

EPIC's Sobel, however, said the FBI's explanation was inadequate.

'I don't think that really resolves the issue,' he said. 'It's still capable of capturing a large amount of data.'

Service checks

Sobel suggested that an appropriate check on the program would be to place it under the control of the service provider, which would pass on the filtered data to the FBI. This would help prevent any intentional or unintentional capture of e-mail not targeted by a court order, he said.

Such a system would be similar to phone tapping, a process through which a telephone company gives the FBI access only to the phone line prescribed in a court order, Sobel said.

'It's the provider who should be the filter, not some piece of software,' he said.

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