Privacy group picks at Carnivore claims

An FBI memo reveals that Carnivore, the FBI's e-mail bugging system, is

able to intercept far more information than FBI officials testified to Congress,

a privacy advocacy organization claims.

Carnivore can intercept so-called unfiltered e-mail traffic — which is not

covered by court orders — according to Wayne Madsen of the Electronic Privacy

Information Center in Washington, D.C.

But that's not what FBI officials told Congress in September, Madsen said.

"They were quite clear that anything not involved in a court order would

be instantly vaporized. You can't get more specific than that," Madsen said.

The document cited by Madsen is a June 5, 2000, memo drafted by the FBI

lab's data intercept technology unit.

Steven Berry, an FBI spokesman, said he has not seen the document cited

by EPIC, but he believes it references "an in-lab controlled experiment

that served to stress the full capabilities of the system."

"During this test, they ran the system without the filter to determine [performance],"

he said. "How fast, how much information, and other parameters — they ran

it flat out, basically, like a car, to see at what point the engine breaks."

Madsen rejected the explanation, noting that the document states the system

was used "in a real-world deployment."

If they tested it in the lab, "then why didn't they refer to it as an in-house

test, instead of a real-world test?" he said.

"I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the people who

testified were not that familiar with the system," Madsen said.

FBI Assistant Director Donald Kerr, testifying before the Senate Judiciary

Committee Sept. 9, said only those packets subject to the court order allowing

the Carnivore interception are detected by the system's filter and captured.

"Other communications are instantaneously vaporized after that one second.

They are totally destroyed. They are not collected, saved or stored," Kerr


But the June 5 memo cited by EPIC noted that Carnivore, during a real-world

deployment connected to a personal computer "could reliably capture and

archive all unfiltered traffic to the [PC's] internal hard drive."


  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.