FBI releasing Carnivore files

The FBI plans to release 3,000 pages of documents pertaining to its Carnivore

e-mail surveillance system in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI laid out its schedule for the release of the documents in a filing

with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia late Wednesday.

But on Thursday, privacy and civil liberties organizations objected to the

FBI's timetable.

The court earlier this month ordered the agency to provide information about

how it planned to release the documents. However, the FBI has to review

the 3,000 documents page by page to determine what can be released under

FOIA and what can be redacted based on national security, privacy and other

concerns, an FBI spokesman said Thursday.

The FBI plans to release the first batch of documents within 45 days, and

subsequent releases will occur in 45-day intervals. But privacy rights organizations

pressing the FOIA case find it unacceptable that the FBI provided no indication

of what portion of the 3,000 documents would be released within that time

span.

"Under this, they could process one page every 45 days," said David Sobel,

general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

It would have been clearer if the FBI had pledged to release a specific

number of pages within each 45-day interval so that it would be possible

to estimate when the process would end, Sobel said. EPIC most likely will

ask the judge to revise the schedule put forth by the FBI, Sobel added.

In July, EPIC and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the FOIA request

asking for all agency records related to Carnivore and other FBI electronic

surveillance tools. Those records may include letters, e-mail messages,

tape recordings, technical manuals, computer-source code and object code.

Carnivore has been used by the FBI in criminal and national security investigations

to read the e-mail of suspects and determine with whom the suspects are

exchanging e-mail. The FBI has said its use is legal under U.S. wiretap

law, but EPIC, the ACLU and some members of Congress aren't convinced that

Carnivore meets those strict guidelines.

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