FBI releasing Carnivore files
- By IDG News Service, Margret Johnston
- Aug 18, 2000
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
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
"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.