ACLU: Block FBI e-snoops
- By Dan Verton
- Jul 14, 2000
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."