, SecurityFocus 2005-01-14
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
Carnivore became a
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.