[ISN] FBI's 'Carnivore' Might Target Wireless Text

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Aug 26 2001 - 02:53:19 PDT

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    FBI's 'Carnivore' Might Target Wireless Text
    Thursday, August 23, 2001
    By Robert O'Harrow Jr.,
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Federal law enforcement authorities may soon expand the use of a
    controversial FBI monitoring system to capture e-mail and other text
    messages sent through wireless telephone carriers, as well as messages
    from their Internet service providers, according to a
    telecommunications industry group.
    The FBI has been using the system, called Carnivore, for two years,
    subject to court authorization, to tap into Internet communications,
    identify e-mail writers online or record the contents of messages. It
    does so by capturing "packets" of information containing those
    Civil liberties advocates and some lawmakers have expressed concerns
    because the system could scan private communication about legal
    activities of others besides those under investigation. The Justice
    Department is reviewing the system's impact on privacy.
    Now the the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association is
    warning that authorities could use Carnivore as soon as October to
    examine messages such as those sent by cellular telephones and other
    handheld devices. That's because the industry has been unable to come
    up with a way to give law enforcement agencies the ability to monitor
    digital communications as they can the more easily captured analog
    messages, as required by a 1994 law.
    In an Aug. 15 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Michael
    Altschul, the association's senior vice president and general counsel,
    said its members can't meet the Sept. 30 deadline for the technology.
    "If the industry is not provided the guidance and time to develop
    solutions for packet surveillance that intercept only the target's
    communications, it seems probable that Carnivore, which intercepts all
    communications in the pathway without the affirmative intervention of
    the carrier, will be widely implemented," Altschul wrote.
    Altschul said in an interview that the FBI has told industry officials
    it would use Carnivore in the absence of another system. "It could
    well be a huge expansion of the use of Carnivore," he said.
    The FBI said in a prepared statement yesterday: "We have never
    proposed or planned to have Carnivore used as a solution for . . .
    compliance." A spokesman said Internet service providers are now so
    adept at meeting the technical demands of approved surveillance of
    suspects' Internet traffic that the FBI has used Carnivore only twice
    this year.
    The spokesman declined to say whether the FBI would use Carnivore -
    now known in the agency as DCS1000 - to capture communications handled
    by telephone carriers.
    Privacy advocates agreed with Altschul that the industry's technical
    problems could mean an expansion of Carnivore use. David Sobel,
    general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the
    FBI has not demonstrated that it can narrowly target the system. That
    raises the prospect that it will collect information from many
    people's communications while searching for a suspect's
    "It opens the door to the collection of communications of people who
    aren't even named in [court] orders," Sobel said.
    Law enforcement agencies use two legal methods to collect information
    about suspects' communications. Under federal "pen register"
    procedures, authorities need only say that call information is
    relevant to an investigation to get court permission to obtain the
    origin or destination of electronic communication to and from a
    suspect. Those rules do not allow authorities to capture the content
    of communication.
    But Sobel and Altschul said Carnivore cannot separate address
    information from the content of a message in a packet, and so
    authorities must be trusted to weed out data they are not allowed by
    law to have.
    The standard is much higher to obtain the content of e-mail or
    telephone calls. It requires authorities to show probable cause that a
    crime has been committed and secure a court order signed by a judge.
    In 1998, federal authorities used the pen register procedures more
    than 7,300 times to obtain phone logs. That same year, federal and
    state authorities received 1,329 court orders to capture the content
    of communications.
    An official at the Federal Communications Commission declined to
    discuss Altschul's letter but said the agency intends to decide soon
    whether it will extend the deadline for meeting the law's requirement.
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