Does the FBI have the right to use Carnivore?

Does the FBI have the right to use Carnivore?

Length: 1821 words (5.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Does the FBI have the right to use Carnivore?." 24 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Internet Privacy - Carnivore, and the Power Of FBI Surveillance

- Carnivore: The Power Of FBI Surveillance       Abstract:  This paper provides an analysis of the privacy issues associated with governmental Internet surveillance, with a focus on the recently disclosed FBI tool known as Carnivore. It concludes that, while some system of surveillance is necessary, more mechanisms to prevent abuse of privacy must exist.   Communication surveillance has been a controversial issue in the US since the 1920's, when the Supreme Court deemed unwarranted wiretaps legitimate in the case of Olmstead v United States....   [tags: Exploratory Essays Research Papers]

Research Papers
1739 words (5 pages)

Carnivore: Chewing Through Our Right to Privacy Essay

- Carnivore: Chewing Through Our Right to Privacy The debate around Carnivore is not really about Carnivore itself. It is more of a debate of whether or not Carnivore oversteps current privacy laws and the Fourth Amendment. Carnivore is a software program that enables the FBI to filter and collect email on a subject of a court order to be used as evidence. The issue around Carnivore started when the ACLU and other such groups demanded a review of the system in 2000. Since then, there has been a Congressional review of Carnivore....   [tags: Argumentative Persuasive Essays]

Free Essays
2121 words (6.1 pages)

Leashing Carnivore Essay

- Leashing Carnivore Just like a dog needs a leash, so does Carnivore. Carnivore is a software program that the FBI has developed to aid in the collection of evidence. After obtaining the proper court order, the FBI connects the Carnivore system to the subjects ISP. The system then scans and collects emails only relevant to the subject of the court order. The issue surrounding the Carnivore is rather or not the system enables to the FBI to violate personal privacy, and that the FBI cannot be trusted with such a system....   [tags: Argumentative persuasive Papers]

Free Essays
847 words (2.4 pages)

National Security vs. the Right to Privacy Essay examples

-       Abstract: Electronic mail is quickly becoming the most prevalent method of communication in the world. However, e-mail systems in corporate, institutional, and commercial environments are all potential targets of monitoring, surveillance and ultimately, censorship.             Electronic mail is a phenomenon that has begun to pervade all aspects of our lives today. We use e-mail in our personal lives, at our schools, at our jobs, and everywhere in between. However, very few of us consider the fact that even though our e-mail is composed by the sender, and is intended to be read only by  the recipient, it actually passes through many hands in between....   [tags: Security vs Privacy]

Research Papers
1764 words (5 pages)

Electronic Surveillance: The FBI Carnivore Program Essays

- Electronic Surveillance: The FBI Carnivore Program Is Big Brother watching our every computer move. Is the government (FBI, specifically) reading and filtering our email and where we go on the web. According to the critics of the FBI’s new CARNIVORE program, the answer is a resounding “yes”. However, according to FBI spokesperson John Collingwood (in a letter to the LA Times on August 7, 2000), CARNIVORE is not a government-backed spy program to invade the privacy of US citizens--it is an effective weapon (similar to phone taps) in the war against crime....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
660 words (1.9 pages)

The History of the FBI Essay

- In the 21st century, the world as we know it suffers from psychotic, demented, treacherous and, sophisticated crimes. This world would be corrupt without a tunnel of light if it was not for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, also known as the FBI, is a corporation that seeks fidelity, bravery and, integrity for the United States of America. The FBI researches shocking and concerning crimes the news reports about politics, war and, safety that we hear on the television about issues that are being reported to the people....   [tags: FBI, crime, justice]

Research Papers
1523 words (4.4 pages)

History of the FBI Essay

- The early 1900’s gave rise to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Founded in appalling times filled with tension, the FBI would slowly transform American law to apprehend the nation’s most notorious criminals, and become one of the vital agencies that protect American sovereignty. Influenced by the Progressive Movement and the belief that the federal government’s intervention was required to alleviate injustices in a dark society of corruption where a war between capital and labor raged, President Roosevelt signed Attorney General Charles Bonaparte an unnamed squad of special agents....   [tags: American History]

Research Papers
940 words (2.7 pages)

The F.B.I. Essay examples

- The F.B.I. To uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the U.S. from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the constitution of the U.S.: this is the mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agency now known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation was founded in 1908 when the Attorney General appointed an unnamed force of Special Agents to be the investigative force of the Department of Justice (DOJ)....   [tags: FBI Police Crime Essays]

Research Papers
1105 words (3.2 pages)

The Carnivore project Essay

- The Carnivore Invasion "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759 The current use and regulations of the F.B.I. surveillance tool known as Carnivore need to be revised in such a way that it will no longer be able to copy the e-mails of unsuspecting Americans. Most Americans are not even aware of the existence of the Carnivore project. The ignorance of the American people is understandable; the government has gone to great lengths to ensure secrecy when it comes to the details of the Carnivore project....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
1702 words (4.9 pages)

Carnivore Essay

- Carnivore No one can speak for all Americans in deciding the trade-offs between equal protection of the laws, privacy, and fearless exercise of democratic freedoms. - Rob Geis Envision a future where every action you make is recorded and reviewed by unknown means — A world where a government spies on its own citizens more frequently than other nations — A government that reads everyone’s email, in order to try to thwart unpreventable actions. Does this sound like a science fiction story. Well it is not; this is a reality according to civil libertarians....   [tags: Research Papers]

Free Essays
2129 words (6.1 pages)

Related Searches

Some say that Carnivore is a necessary resource for the FBI because there is so much data out there that the only way they can process any substantial amount is if they have a system like Carnivore that can filter out unnecessary information. An investigation could otherwise be jeopardized if the FBI were to come across information they were not authorized to see. [Spernow] Also, there are controversies as to whether subjects should be considered part of an e-mail’s header. Some people have problems with others having access to the information that could be discovered from merely reading those subjects. Email pagers only show the subjects of emails, so relevant information is put in the subject if the target is a pager. Many Internet users would rather ISPs just collect data from the one suspect and hand over information to the FBI instead of setting up a Carnivore machine and scanning all users’ emails.

For all intents and purposes, Carnivore was meant to be used as an antiterrorism device and an aid to apprehension of suspects communicating across the Internet. Carnivore has done its job in this sense, but at what cost to the privacy of other Internet users? It is a breach of privacy for all users of the target ISP. The FBI says that Carnivore only sniffs “what [they] want it to . . . [and ignores] everything else” [Stephenson]. Yes, this system is a machine that only searches for what it is told, but how many people actually trust the FBI and the government to do nothing but what they are supposed to? Also, if we do believe they are completely honest in their methods, it is still questionable if they really know what to look for: there are so many different ways to infer what one means through email that the specific keywords being searched for may never be found. In searching, they would have to find all of the misspellings and variations of these words, which would in turn be likely to return even more innocent messages. For instance, if terrorists are talking about bombing something, they may never mention bombs; they could say “bmb”, “b0mb”, “bmob”, or even “60/\/\6”, for a few examples. So is a keyword search really that effective in hunting down more dangerous criminals? Sure, some amateurs could get caught, but those who were set on reaching their goals would be wary of such simple tracking techniques as keyword searches. Also, Carnivore scans millions of packets; it is very improbable that all of them can be recorded and tracked. However, while one side says Carnivore is not nearly powerful enough to be of much use considering the size of the Internet, supporters of it say that it would otherwise be completely impossible to find anything suspicious online. No one really knows the right explanation because there still has not been very much released information on the system. While some say that Carnivore takes wide sweeps of systems and picks up relevant information, others state the opposite. In a testimony, Attorney Robert Corn-Revere stated that it had been acknowledged that Carnivore could capture more information than was allowed, but “it would be programmed to obtain only information from the target subscriber’s account, and would be configured not to intercept the content of any communication” [Testimony]. Many people are untrusting or afraid of Carnivore just because there is not enough information to explain its purposes and workings well.

There have even been instances of Carnivore interfering with investigations. The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained FBI documents that mentioned the collection of data that the FBI was not authorized to view. This led to the eradication of all of the collected data, which included information tied to Osama Bin Laden. [FBI] It was also found that data involving the September 11 attacks was collected before the attacks, but the FBI and CIA “failed to coordinate and respond to the information” [Bowman].

Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Berry Steinhardt said the Carnivore system was like a "wiretap capable of accessing the contents of the conversations of all of the phone company's customers, with the assurance that the FBI will record only conversations of the specified target” [ACLU]. Apparently, Carnivore is sometimes helpful when it comes to investigations, but it does not seem effective enough to warrant the loss of privacy to other Internet users. Some people pay no attention to the chance that their email will be scanned or would not care if it was. If they have nothing to hide, there is no chance the FBI would bother them after reading any specific emails, nor would it be likely to know or care who that person even was. Other people use their email to send personal information that they would prefer no one else know about; some just do not sit well with the idea that someone could be intercepting and reading their emails, no matter how personal they are or if they would ever meet that person. I am part of the latter group who would prefer not to release any unnecessary information to something as large and accessible as the Internet. Anything sent across the Internet can be and is intercepted at certain points, and many people would prefer that it was not. The knowledge that a Carnivore machine could be running on an ISP basically cuts away the rest of the feelings of privacy people who know about it once had. It is slightly less bothersome that it is legal to only scan the sending and receiving email addresses—just like only the caller and original receiver can be tracked if a phone call is forwarded. I would probably use email much less or almost not at all if Carnivore were ever allowed to scan entire emails. I do understand that whatever goes to an ISP is backed up there, but at least it is not being actively scanned and possibly read by humans. People would be much better off and much happier if Carnivore were put out of use and the ISP only sent the FBI information about suspected users. They are, after all, incapable of actively scanning and recording everything that goes through the ISP, so it would be more comforting and also more efficient if only information of suspicious users was recorded and then handed over to the FBI. Some have done this. After the September 11 attack, AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein stated that Carnivore was unnecessary because they “are able to provide [the FBI] with information on an immediate basis” [Lemos]. EPIC stated that Carnivore is a “powerful but clumsy tool that endangers the privacy” [FBI] of Americans. I agree with their initial suggestion that Carnivore’s use be “suspended until the questions surrounding it can finally be resolved” [FBI]. Until Carnivore works better and can be trusted by the majority of Internet users, a more efficient system should be implemented.


"Big Brother is Watching Your Email." New African. Jan. 2002: Academic
Search Premier. 4 Nov. 2003. Keyword: Carnivore AND Security.

Black, Jane. "These Are Not Your Father\'s Wiretaps." Business Week
Online. 27 Feb. 2003: Academic Search Premier. 7 Nov. 2003. Keyword: Carnivore AND Security.

Kandra, Anne. "National Security vs. Online Privacy." PC World. Jan.
2002: Academic Search Premier. 4 Nov. 2003. Keyword: Carnivore AND

Nabbali, Talitha, and Mark Perry. "Going for the throat: Carnivore in an Echelon
World — Part I." Computer Law & Security Report. Dec. 2003: Academic
Search Premier. 5 Nov. 2003. Keyword: Carnivore AND FBI.

Works Cited

“ACLU Hunting for FBI’s Carnivore.” July 18, 2000. 11
November 2003. <>.

Bowman, Lisa M. “FBI digs deeper into the Web.” CNET June 6, 2002. 8
November <>.

“FBI's Carnivore System Disrupted Anti-Terror Investigation.” May 28, 2002. 12
November 2003. <>.

Konrad, Rachel. “New documents shed more light on FBI's "Carnivore".” CNET November 16, 2000. 9 November 2003. <>.

Lemos, Robert. “ISPs aid FBI in terrorist search.” CNET September 13,
2001. 8 November 2003. <>.

Luening, Erich. “FBI takes the teeth out of Carnivore's name.” CNET
February 9, 2001. 11 November 2003. <>.

Spernow, William. “Commentary: Don't click the panic button over Carnivore.” CNET November 17, 2000. 11 November 2003. <>.

Stephenson, Peter. "It’s a Strange, Strange, Strange, Strange World."
Information Systems Security. Nov. 2000: Academic Search Premier. 7 Nov.
2003. Keyword: Carnivore AND FBI.

“Testimony of Robert Corn-Revere.” April 6, 2000. 11
November 2003. <

Tyson, Jeff. “How Carnivore Works.” How Stuff Works. 11 November 2003.
Return to