DOJ Solicits Universities to Review Carnivore

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday posted criteria on its Web site for conducting a review of Carnivore, a controversial e-mail monitoring system used by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in criminal and national security investigations.

The DOJ is soliciting the help of a university computer science department to conduct an independent validation and verification of the technology that runs Carnivore in an effort to escape having to publish the computer source code underlying the system.

The department posted a statement of work and specific expectations for the review on its Web site to make the selection of a university as fair and equitable as possible for all those want to be considered, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said.

"This will ensure that all the universities that want to be considered will be able to apply based on the same standards, and everyone, including privacy and industry experts, will understand exactly what we are expecting from the review process," Reno said during a press briefing Wednesday.

The statement of work will remain on the DOJ's Web site for 10 business days.

Following that, there will be a two-day period for the Carnivore review team to make a recommendation to Reno. She will decide on a university by Sept. 15, and the review will be completed by Dec. 1, Reno said.

Reno was expected to have announced a university by now, but said Wednesday that the DOJ realized it should extend the process to make sure all the interested universities have an equal opportunity to be considered.

The FBI is also under pressure to release documents pertaining to Carnivore in compliance with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by privacy and civil liberties groups. Last week, the agency laid out its schedule for releasing the documents, but the groups that have filed the FOIA request were not satisfied. [See "Privacy Groups Object to FBI's Carnivore Plans," Aug. 17.] Carnivore has been used by the FBI in criminal and national security investigations to read the e-mail of suspects and determine with whom the suspects are exchanging e-mail. The FBI has said its use is legal under U.S. wiretap law, but the privacy and civil liberties groups and some members of U.S. Congress aren't convinced that Carnivore meets those strict guidelines.

The criteria for carrying out the review of Carnivore are at http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/pff/busopp.html. A DOJ spokeswoman Thursday said the site was working intermittently.

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