FBI keeping key logger secret

The FBI says its controversial "key logger system" is classified as "secret," thus the law enforcement agency will not disclose how it works despite a judge's order to do so.

In an affidavit filed Sept. 6 with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, the FBI said revealing details about the key logger "could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United States."

The key logger system records a computer user's keystrokes and was used by the FBI to discover the password that unlocked encrypted files on the computer of a suspected loan shark, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. Lawyers for Scarfo contend that the key logger may have been used illegally, depending how it works. If it works like a wiretap, the FBI would have needed permission from a court to use it.

Scarfo's lawyers also questioned whether the FBI classified the key logger as secret to avoid having its use challenged.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Politan said he had "serious concerns" that the key logger might indeed work like a wiretap and its use may have been improper. He ordered the FBI to tell him how it works.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Wigler told Politan Sept. 6 that the key logger's secret classification was established at least 14 months prior to its use against Scarfo.

The FBI remains silent on how the key logger works. Neil Gallagher, assistant director of the FBI's National Security Division, said only, "the details of the key logger system have been appropriately classified at the 'secret' level and should remain so classified."

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