ACLU: Block FBI e-snoops

The American Civil Liberties Union on July 11 appealed to Congress to protect

Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures on the Internet in light

of recent revelations that a new monitoring tool could enable the FBI to

intercept the e-mail of law-abiding citizens.

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee's Constitution Subcommitte,

ACLU director Laura Murphy argued that the FBI's new Carnivore e-mail surveillance

system gives federal law enforcement officers access to the e-mail of every

customer of an Internet service provider and the e-mail of every person

who communicates with them.

"The Carnivore system gives law enforcement e-mail interception capabilities

that were never contemplated when Congress passed the Electronic Communications

Privacy Act" in 1986, Murphy stated in the letter. "The ACLU urges the subcommittee

to accelerate its consideration of the application of the Fourth Amendment

in the Digital Age."

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that "the

right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects,

against unreasonable searches and seizures."

Robert Corn-Revere, an Internet and communications lawyer with the Washington,

D.C.-based law firm Hogan & Harston LLP, first divulged evidence of

the Carnivore system's abilities during a Congressional hearing in April.

The FBI must have a court order to use Carnivore to intercept the communications

of alleged criminals.

Carnivore is attached directly to an ISP's network and gives the FBI access

to all e-mail traffic flowing across an ISP's network, according to the

ACLU. The ACLU and others have raised concerns that Carnivore intercepts

information from the header of e-mail messages and may divulge information

about the contents of the messages.

"The FBI and the law enforcement and national security communities in general

are offering a trade: less privacy due to increased use of technology in

surveillance in return for greater safety for the public," said Daniel Ryan,

a lawyer and former director of Information Systems Security at the Pentagon.

"Carnivore works fine. It is just a "sniffer,'" Ryan said. "Used under judicial

supervision.it represents no greater threat than we faced before, except

perhaps with regard to the sheer amount of information that could be reviewed."

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