Carnivore review due Friday

Janet Reno's whitewash crew produces

A controversial report on the FBI's "Carnivore" Internet surveillance tool by the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute (IITRI) is due at the US Department of Justice (DoJ) Friday, but its contents will remain secret until December.

The DoJ commissioned the analysis after advocacy groups and lawmakers voiced concerns this summer that Carnivore, supposedly designed to monitor the mail of criminal suspects, might violate the privacy of innocent Internet users.

The Department drew more criticism when it selected a review team staffed with high-clearance insiders with close government ties. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (Republican, Texas) charged at the time that the review was a "whitewash."

More Documents Released

Meanwhile, Thursday marked the FBI's release of an additional 362 pages of Carnivore documents to the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC), which had sued them under the Freedom of Information Act. The pages are the second release under a schedule that calls for the Bureau to make incremental releases every 45 days, to give the FBI time to painstakingly censor the portions it deems too sensitive for public disclosure.

With the latest release, the FBI notified EPIC that it would be finished handing over documents by 1 December -- a development that worries EPIC attorney David Sobel. "In two weeks they say they're going to be done," says Sobel. "That indicates that the vast majority of the pages are going to be withheld entirely, since there are 3000 pages, and we've received less than a thousand."

The release of about 600 pages in early October revealed previously unknown details about the system, including Carnivore's place in a trinity of programs -- alongside "Packeteer" and "Coolminer" -- known collectively as the "DragonWare suite."

The documents were heavily censored, and hundreds of pages were withheld entirely. Among other redactions, the formerly-classified documents had thick black lines covering portions of screen shot printouts showing Carnivore's user interface.

Notwithstanding it's sensitivity, that user interface was splashed onto a projection screen late last month at a public meeting of the North American Network Operators Group. Recording video of the meeting shows FBI agent Marcus Thomas, head of the Carnivore project, giving a demonstration of the system to an occasionally hostile group of hundreds of network technicians.

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