Carnivore report doesn't end debate

"Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System"

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The final report on Carnivore is not likely to close the divide between Justice Department proponents of the FBI's controversial e-mail surveillance system and those concerned about privacy.

Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) dismissed the report by IIT Research Institute as "a superficial review that doesn't get to the heart of the matter."

"It does nothing to restore the confidence that Americans should have in the confidentiality of their online transactions," Armey said.

An FBI spokesman Dec. 15 said the bureau is still reviewing the final report and offered no comment. Justice posted the final "Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System" on its Web site Dec. 14.

"In the interim report, there were some recommendations that we found constructive. We'll evaluate those," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.

While Armey is not alone in suspecting the review as a rubber stamp of Carnivore, IIT did spell out some failings of the system.

The institute said the way Carnivore is configured and deployed enables agents to easily intercept more of a suspect's e-mail correspondence than what a court order might authorize.

Also, agents may access the system remotely and without identifying themselves, allowing for possible unauthorized use.

Still, the report concludes that Carnivore, when used in accordance with the law and properly configured, can be more effective in protecting individual privacy and enabling lawful surveillance than similar, but less sophisticated, commercial devices.

Justice commissioned the Carnivore study in September in response to concerns by Congress and privacy advocates over the system's potential abuses.

An Armey spokesman said hearings on the system will likely be held when Congress convenes in January.

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