RealTime IT News

Reno Agrees to Review Carnivore

Twenty-eight House members sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno this week urging her to suspend the operation of the Carnivore cyber snooping system while it's inner workings are under review.

House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) set up a Web poll asking the public for their views on the issue of government surveillance and the Internet.

Currently 92 percent of the respondents say that Carnivore should be banned because it allows the government to invade users privacy. Only 8 percent believe that the government's data tapping system should be maintained to track criminal activity on the Internet.

In its letter to Reno, the gang of 28 expressed strong reservations about the Internet monitoring system developed by the FBI. Representatives asked that Reno suspend any activity involving the development or use of Carnivore until serious privacy issues could be addressed.

Reno responded Thursday, by describing the two-step process she would seek to review the FBI's use of Carnivore.

During her weekly Justice Department news briefing, Reno said the first step would be for a group of academic experts to conduct a detailed review of the program's source code works.

"Those experts will report their findings to a panel of interested parties, people from the telecommunications and computer industries, as well as privacy experts," Reno said.

FBI officials maintain the court-authorized data taps would only focus on criminal suspects who are targets of an investigation. But privacy advocates fear the system may cast too wide a net on the Net, and harvest private information about legal activities, along with criminal's e-mails.

Reno said the two-step process was worked out with the FBI, and that she wanted the review to be done "as soon as possible." She said the system would not be suspended until the review has been completed.