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DOJ to feed universities Carnivore details

The U.S. Department of Justice will post information on its Web site tomorrow outlining the details of its plan for an investigation of the FBI Carnivore email surveillance program.

The U.S. Department of Justice will post information on its Web site tomorrow outlining the details of its plan for an investigation of the FBI Carnivore program.

Attorney General Janet Reno promised to review the controversial program by Dec. 1 through a university-commissioned study, followed by an internal DOJ review of the findings. Tomorrow's posting will act as a guideline for universities interested in conducting the study, which should shed some light on the scope of the DOJ's investigation.

"(The posting will say) what our expectations are, and what exactly we're going to be asking them to review," said DOJ spokeswoman Chris Watney.

The FBI's Carnivore system is installed at Internet service providers and scans massive amounts of email. The FBI says it is only monitoring email by people under investigation, but privacy advocates are concerned that the dragnet is capturing other email as well.

"They have the ability to intercept all email moving through the ISP," said David Sobel, general counsel of the private Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sued the FBI for its documents under the Freedom of Information Act. "That arrangement is subject to abuse, and it's very difficult to oversee the FBI's appropriate use of that kind of system."

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The center plans to issue its own review based on the documents it will soon receive from the FBI. Sobel said he supports the DOJ's investigation but believes Reno should have suspended the Carnivore system until the review is completed.

"If there's enough questions to warrant a study, then the use of the system should be suspended until those questions are answered," Sobel said.

Beginning tomorrow, universities will have 10 days to apply to the DOJ to participate in the study. A committee will then review the applications for two days and make a recommendation to Reno, who will make the final decision.

A university should be selected by Sept. 15, with a final review of the university's findings anticipated by Dec. 1.

Assistant Attorney General Steve Colgate will lead the DOJ panel, which will include the DOJ's chief privacy officer, the chief science and technology officer, and the FBI assistant director.