FBI retires its Carnivore
By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Jan 14 2005 7:16PM
FBI surveillance experts have put their once-controversial Carnivore Internet surveillance tool out to pasture, preferring instead to use commercial products to eavesdrop on network traffic, according to documents released Friday.
Two reports to Congress obtained by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the FBI didn't use Carnivore, or its rebranded version "DCS-1000," at all during the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years. Instead, the bureau turned to unnamed commercially-available products to conduct Internet surveillance thirteen times in criminal investigations in that period.
Carnivore became a hot topic among civil liberations, some network operators and many lawmakers in 2000, when an ISP's legal challenge brought the surveillance tool's existence to light. One controversy revolved around the FBI's legally-murky use of the device to obtain e-mail headers and other information without a wiretap warrant -- an issue Congress resolved by explicitly legalizing the practice in the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act.
Under section 216 of the act, the FBI can conduct a limited form of Internet surveillance without first visiting a judge and establishing probable cause that the target has committed a crime. In such cases the FBI is authorized to capture routing information like e-mail addresses or IP addresses, but not the contents of the communications.
According to the released reports, the bureau used that power three times in 2002 and six times in 2003 in cases in which it brought its own Internet surveillance gear to the job. Each of those surveillance operations lasted sixty days or less, except for one investigation into alleged extortion, arson and "teaching of others how to make and use destructive devices" that ran over eight months from January 10th to August 26th, 2002.
Other cases investigated under section 216 involved alleged mail fraud, controlled substance sales, providing material support to terrorism, and making obscene or harassing telephone calls within the District of Columbia. The surveillance targets' names are not listed in the reports.
In four additional cases, twice each in 2002 and 2003, the FBI obtained a full-blown Internet wiretap warrant from a judge, permitting them to capture the contents of a target's Internet communications in real time. No more information on those cases is provided in the reports because they involved "sensitive investigations," according to the bureau.
The new documents only enumerate criminal investigations in which the FBI deployed a government-owned surveillance tool, not those in which an ISP used its own equipment to facilitate the spying. Cases involving foreign espionage or international terrorism are also omitted.
Developed by a contractor, Carnivore was a customizable packet sniffer that, in conjunction with other FBI tools, could capture e-mail messages, and reconstruct Web pages exactly as a surveillance target saw them while surfing the Web. FBI agents lugged it with them to ISPs that lacked their own spying capability.
I think it's about time that the "FBI Net Nazis" stopped using that crap. I first heard about it from MaxPower over the summer, and the sheer thought of it creeped me out.
If you do some research on the Web, one of the USA's biggest and most ambitious ideas is to control the flow of data over the Internet, but not in terms of censoring. They want to push for global hacking laws, and the starndardization of punishments for piracy, among other things.
What the USA still doesn't grasp is that The Internet has no nationality; it has no laws, and no government. It is like it's own nation, independantly ruled by geeks all over the world. We don't want anyone treading on our nation, so please, to all countries: KEEP YOUR LAWS OUT OF THE INTERNET.
We don't want you all here, and with good reason. Politics and technology don't mix in America. Just look at Diebold, or senator Grossman's and Lieberman's campaigns against video game violence.
To Diebold: Thanks for fixing the election. You are a true model for Democracy everywehere.
To the "game haters:" Try not to forget the First Amendment, and also try reading up on these so-called "media effects." They are non-existant. If you are looking for someone to blame for Columbine, blame yourselves for not giving Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris the psychological treatment they needed, because your medical system sucks donkeys. Just don't blame an entire populace, or an entire industry. Didn't you see where scapegoating got Germany in World War II?