- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

Vinton Cerf, whose work helped shape the Internet, told a Senate hearing that an independent review of the government's maligned e-mail-surveillance software Carnivore is needed.

But he added after the hearing he doesn't believe Carnivore is "abusive."

"I don't believe what the FBI has done is technically abusive," said Mr. Cerf, a senior vice president at telephone company WorldCom Corp. who earlier in his career helped develop the Internet protocol that ensures information sent along the network is sent to the right destination.

"I agree there needs to be a broader review of the system and confirmation to this committee that it is as advertised," Mr. Cerf testified at the hearing. He declined to address the policy question at hand; namely, whether the FBI should continue using Carnivore.

The Senate Judiciary Committee called yesterday's hearing, the Senate's first on Carnivore, to probe the issue of balance between privacy rights and public policy.

"This is something that's terrifying to a lot of people. Are we going to have an Orwellian type of investigative government?" asked Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman.

Critics continued calls yesterday for the FBI to reveal Carnivore's code, the directions in the software that serve as instructions and tell it what information to retrieve.

Carnivore is installed at an Internet-service provider's connection to the network and collects data sent to or mailed by a suspect. But the FBI says it doesn't keep information sent to or sent by a person not under surveillance, even though Carnivore scoops up more Internet protocol addresses the series of numbers in the header of an e-mail than it needs before discarding irrelevant addresses.

The agency also said it has used Carnivore no more than 30 times.

"The first problem with Carnivore is that we do not know how it works," said James Dempsey, senior staff counsel for privacy advocate and civil liberties group Center for Democracy and Technology.

Because there is little opportunity for oversight, use of Carnivore could lead to misuse, Mr. Dempsey said.

The FBI has been sued by the District of Columbia-based Electronic Privacy Information Clearinghouse, which is trying force the release of Carnivore's code.

An independent review could help reveal what Carnivore is instructed to retrieve, but Mr. Dempsey said the study is unlikely to be useful because too many restrictions will be placed on the university that does the study, making it unable to fully reveal its findings.

The Justice Department plans to release a summarized version of the independent review, not the review itself.

Attorney General Janet Reno postponed until Sept. 15 her selection of a university to analyze Carnivore. That review is expected to be completed by Dec. 1.

FBI officials yesterday continued to urge people to trust the agency and said they have not misused the software or violated anyone's Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

"We believe that the American public should have trust in the FBI's conduct of electronic surveillance," FBI Assistant Director Donald Kerr said.

George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen said arguments can be made that Carnivore does not amount to unreasonable search and seizure, but said he was wary of Mr. Kerr's "trust us" plea.

"I have a hyperbolic instinct when it comes to Carnivore," Mr. Rosen said. "My Fourth Amendment knee jerks."

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