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Armey Aims Attack at Carnivore

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) continues to challenge the governments us of the "Carnivore" cyber snooping system developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There is evidence that the Justice Department is already working on Carnivore 2.0, an expanded version of the original "Omnivore" program.

Documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that Carnivore is only one part of a larger suite of electronic surveillance tools known as the "Dragon Ware suite."

An online poll recently completed by the Information Technology Association of America indicates that Americans are deeply concerned about privacy issues. More than 80 percent of those surveyed expressed some fears that the government-held personal data about them could be misused.

Rep. Armey said he is shocked at the Justice Department's cavalier attitude toward the concerns of Americans.

"There's no reason to expand a program that raises the serious constitutional issues that Carnivore has," Armey said. "Doing so undermines the confidence we have in our government."

In order to quell concerned citizens about Carnivore's appetite, Reno directed Stephen R. Colgate, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Management Division, arrange for an independent technical review of the programs design, function, and method of use.

The DOJ selected IIT Research Institute to complete the technical review of Carnivore. IITRI is an independent, not-for-profit contract research and development organization associated with the Illinois Institute of Technology.

But Rep. Armey cited several recent developments, which must call into question the independence of the IITRI review.

In a letter to US Attorney General Janet Reno on Thursday, Armey said that until the constitutional questions have been adequately addressed, the Justice Department cease using current Carnivore programs and cease developing new versions of the software.

Armey asked Reno if the IITRI review would be of the current version of Carnivore software, or if the research firm would also review Carnivore 2.0, 3.0 and other tools that make-up the so-called Dragon Ware Suite.

The outspoken Majority Leader also questioned IITRI's ability to complete an impartial review of Carnivore since several members of the research firm have strong ties to the White House.

"While all are highly qualified, most members of the team have personal connections to federal-government agencies, the Clinton administration or even the Department of Justice itself," Armey wrote. "Do you not think these clear personal and political ties to the administration constitute at least the appearance of a conflict of interest?"

Finally, Armey chastised the DOJ for refusing to release the name of the government contractor that created Carnivore. Without knowing who built the system, it's impossible to know whether IITRI has any ties to the anonymous firm.

"I have questioned the independence of this review," Armey said. "It seems to me that there is no point in spending $175,000 on a review that raises more questions than it answers."

The Carnivore report is due to be made public in December. A Justice Department spokesperson said simply that the report would be fair.

If Armey's accusations are accurate, the DOJ cannot substantiate that any review of the Carnivore sys