FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Washington, D.C. — Andy Sullivan reports that an independent review board said that a controversial FBI electronic wiretap tool was appropriate for law-enforcement use, changing little from its draft report released last month.
In its final report to the U.S. Justice Department, a group of researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) added recommendations that the Justice Department should maintain tight central control of the e-mail monitoring system, dubbed Carnivore. They also recommended that all comprehensive searches require Justice Department approval and that Carnivore be modified to document all of its activities to prevent abuse. But much of the rest of the report remained unchanged, despite criticism from members of Congress and civil-liberties groups.
Carnivore, which cannot be used without a court order, is installed in the facilities of Internet providers to monitor the e-mail activity of suspected criminals.
The IIT was hired to examined Carnivore this fall after congressional concerns about unreasonable search and seizure prompted the Justice Department to commission an independent review of the system.
The researchers said Carnivore was an effective monitoring tool, but could potentially become too invasive if it were set up improperly. They recommended minor modifications to the existing system and an eventual public release of its technical specifications, or “source code.”
The report also contained an observation that Carnivore could cause potential disruptions if Internet service providers are required to modify their networks to ensure compatibility.
But on the whole, Carnivore does not violate privacy or civil liberties, the report concluded. “It provides investigators with no more information than is permitted by a given court order.”
An earlier version of the report had drawn criticism from Rep. Dick Armey, the Texas Republican who serves as House minority leader and various civil-liberties groups, who said the team from Illinois had close ties to the Clinton Administration and was biased in favor of Carnivore.
Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney said the report will be examined by an internal review team and incorporated with public comments into a report for Attorney General Janet Reno, probably by the end of the month.
Watney said she did not know what Reno would conclude from the report, or if she would have time to do anything before President-Elect George W. Bush installs a new attorney general in January.