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Privacy Under Siege: The FBI's Carnivore Surveillance Device

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The U.S. Senate passed a White House-backed bill late last night to expand the powers of law enforcement to wiretap suspected terrorists, share intelligence information about them and prosecute those who knowingly harbor them.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to approve similar legislation today.

Lawmakers have been under heavy pressure to pass the legislation in response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Last night, at the urging of the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, they repeatedly turned aside efforts by Sen. to amend the bill to address what he said were its failures to adequately protect civil liberties. Feingold cast the only dissenting vote.

One of the surveillance devices that this bill could push through is an FBI device called CARNIVORE.

In July of 2000 the existence of an FBI monitoring system called "CARNIVORE" was widely reported. Reports indicated that the CARNIVORE system is installed at the facilities of an internet service provider and can monitor all traffic moving through that ISP. The FBI claims that CARNIVORE "filters" data traffic and delivers to investigators only those packets that they are legally authorized to obtain. But the details remain secret.

Guest:

  • Chris Hoofnagle, legislative counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center

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