Reno Describes Carnivore Vetting Process

BOSTON (07/27/2000) - U.S Attorney General Janet Reno Thursday said a two-step process will be used to review the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's e-mail sniffer program, Carnivore, which has raised privacy concerns.

"The first step will be to have an individual expert or group of experts, probably from an academic community, conduct a detailed review of the source code," Reno said during a morning press briefing, according to a transcript obtained by the IDG News Service.

Reno said the group would then probably report to a panel of interested parties, such as telecommunications and computer industry executives, and privacy experts.

"I'm very anxious to get this review underway," Reno said. "The FBI is working on it, and representatives of the Bureau are meeting with privacy advocates and representatives of the telecommunications and computer industry to pursue it and to develop a protocol for review."

The FBI can utilize the Carnivore technology to intercept e-mails flowing through an ISPs (Internet Service Provider's) network and sent by suspects under investigation. Law enforcement officials must obtain a court order before intercepting messages.

FBI officials have said Carnivore has been used in about 25 cases during the past year to assist in criminal and national security investigations.

Federal law enforcement began developing Carnivore about three years ago after officers began seeking court orders to intercept e-mail during criminal investigations.

The FBI contends that the use of Carnivore complies with federal wiretap law and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. However, privacy advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union and ISPs have questioned Carnivore's use and said they are concerned about widespread e-mail surveillance.

Reno said Thursday that there were no plans to suspend the Carnivore program.

"I think we will continue to make sure that it is implemented carefully and that there is no abuse in its use when there is valid law enforcement purposes for it," Reno said.

FBI, in Washington, DC., can be at http://www.fbi.gov/.

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