Does the FBI have the right to use Carnivore?

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Does the FBI have the right to use Carnivore?

Carnivore is an unnecessary system that should be replaced by one that infringes less on the privacy of Internet users, such as one that records the data of certain subscribers and sends only that information to the FBI. The methods used for intercepting communications, from simple wiretapping to the NSA’s ECHELON satellite surveillance system, have been designed as a means of intercepting information concerning criminal and terrorist plans and using that information to apprehend suspects before they cause any harm. Carnivore, the FBI’s email “wiretapping” system, is used to scan emails on a specific ISP that is believed to be hosting a suspected criminal.

Carnivore was designed to scan packets of information passing through a router in search of suspicious activity. It looks for keywords and names in the headers of emails and other data that may lead to the prevention of crimes or apprehension of suspects. It is believed that Carnivore was derived from commercial online detection software known as Etherpeek. [Tyson] In February 1997, the system known as “Omnivore” was proposed to run on Solaris X86 computers. In June 1999, it was replaced by the Carnivore system, which runs on Windows NT-based computers. [Konrad] Carnivore is part of a system known as the DragonWare Suite. This system contains three parts: Carnivore, the system that captures information; Packeteer, which is believed to be used as a packet reassembler; and Coolminer, an application that is thought to be capable of analyzing the data collected. [Tyson] It was recommended that Carnivore’s name be changed because its current name caused people to infer that it would aggressively invade their privacy. Because of its job as a “digital collection system,” it was recently renamed DCS1000. [Luening] It has also been said that the FBI has merely “dressed its online wolf in sheep’s clothing” [Luening].

When a suspected criminal is detected, a court order for investigation must be issued, and then a Carnivore machine is set up at the suspect’s ISP. It then scans all incoming and outgoing data for every user on that ISP. It is claimed that only the headers of emails are scanned for information and that the contents are left alone, but there are questions as to whether or not this is true and, if it is not, whether citizens can trust the government not to read personal email while searching for their suspect.
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