Spooks forced to account for use of Carnivore

The US House of Representatives has approved legislation requiring the FBI to annually report to the US Congressdetailed information about its use of Carnivore, opening the door for Australia to apply similar standards ofaccountability.

Australian IT opposition spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy is expected to raise questions about the DCS 1000 e-mail andInternet surveillance system, formerly known as Carnivore, in the next session of Parliament in August.

The US legislation is part of the "21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act", which setsforth funding for the department.

The section of the bill relating to DCS 1000 requires officials to disclose: the number of times DCS 1000 was usedduring the preceding fiscal year, and the number of times the FBI petitioned for its use; which US Department ofJustice (DoJ) officials, and which courts, approved each use of the system; which statute was relied on each time toauthorise use; the process and criteria the DoJ uses to review and approve requests for the system's use; the offencethat provoked each requested DCS 1000 use; and any information gathered that was not authorised by the court.

The legislation will provide accountability and is a "step in the right direction", said House Majority Leader DickArmey, a Texan Republican, in a statement on his Web site.

Armey has been a vocal DCS 1000 critic. One year ago, he joined 31 other members of Congress in signing a letterasking then Attorney General Janet Reno to suspend development and use of Carnivore (as the system was then named)"until the serious privacy issues involved have been satisfactorily answered".

The House bill, which passed by a voice vote, will now be sent to the US Senate for consideration.

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