Armey renews Carnivore criticism

Rep. Armey's letter to Ashcroft

House Majority Leader Dick Armey has renewed his criticism of the FBI's e-mail surveillance tool, formerly known as Carnivore.

In a June 14 letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Texas Republican urged the Justice Department to re-examine Carnivore in light of this week's Supreme Court decision limiting the use of privacy-threatening technology.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of high-tech devices to gather information that would not be available otherwise constitutes a search and would require a warrant.

Armey said there is a parallel between the court's decision and the Carnivore system. He urged Ashroft to ask whether Carnivore "similarly undermines the minimum expectation that individuals have that their personal electronic communications will not be examined by law enforcement devices unless a specified court warrant has been issued."

"I believe that the FBI is making a good-faith effort to fight crime in the most efficient way possible," Armey stated in his letter. "But I also believe the founders quite clearly decided to sacrifice that kind of efficiency for the sake of protecting citizens from the danger of an overly intrusive government."

Carnivore, which the FBI has renamed DCS1000, is a system that enables law enforcement officials to tap certain types of data — such as the "to" and "from" information — coming through an Internet service provider's networks.

Opponents have argued that law enforcement officials should be required to get the same kind of court order needed for a telephone wiretap. The FBI has argued that it can use Carnivore under the less-restrictive rules that allow authorities to gather telephone numbers of calls a suspect may make or receive.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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