Inside view of Carnivore due today

An interim report on the FBI's controversial e-mail bugging system called Carnivore will be released today.

The report, produced by the IIT Research Institute, is a technical review intended to answer whether Carnivore intercepts and preserves only the online communications permitted under court order. A final report is due next month.

IITRI won the Carnivore research contract in September from among 11 bidding universities and testing labs. The McLean, Va.-based organization is an independent, nonprofit center associated with the Illinois Institute of Technology.

FBI officials have testified that the system captures only the "to" and "from" data on e-mail messages the bureau has intercepted under court permission.

Meanwhile, contradictions between what FBI officials have said about Carnivore and what the bureau's internal documents seem to say is only making the device more suspect, according Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.).

Barr, vice chairman of the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee, said documents the FBI released to a Washington, D.C., privacy group "further highlight the gap between the FBI's public statements and the capabilities of the system it is quietly developing."

Barr was one of 32 congressional leaders who in July asked Attorney General Janet Reno to suspend use and further development of Carnivore until privacy issues are resolved.

But FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said Nov. 20 that the bureau continues to develop the system. "Technology is something that's always changing," he said, and criminals do not stop using the best technological tools available. "It's like a cat-and-mouse game. We could never just stop. That would be giving up."

The bureau understands privacy concerns, he said. "The FBI doesn't disagree that [Carnivore] should be scrutinized, but there is a problem with the logic of stopping and letting criminals exploit technology."

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