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O'Reilly Network Weekly
Open Source Roundtable
Sponsored by IBM developerWorks

Is Carnivore Eating You?
July 19, 2000

Carnivore, the FBI's surveillance system that monitors traffic flowing through Internet service providers, has forced the issue of wiretap-style surveillance to the forefront in recent weeks. The FBI has said it wants to access the e-mail and other traffic of suspects under surveillance, similar to the way it uses wiretaps to collect information for indictments. Complicating the legal implications of monitoring an open flow of e-mail through an Internet service provider's mail routers is the issue of the so-called black box: a piece of hardwire the FBI wants to physically install at ISPs so it can remotely manage the tapping. What's in the black box, and do its capabilities go too far?

Three civil libertarians joined the Rountable on Monday, July 17, 2000 to discuss the legal and political implications of Carnivore.

Listen to this discussion (9:56 mins, 9.7 MB):   Download the MP3 file    Listen in Real Audio


Deborah Pierce
Staff Attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation

"It seems like what they're doing is scanning not only the target e-mail,but every piece of e-mail that's going through the ISP. And that is far beyond what their mandate is, with regard to the wiretap laws."


Ari Schwartz
Policy Analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology


"The black box really does make a difference ... There's the larger issue of the ISPs being able to control their own systems. When you're putting in a black box, the ISPs don't know what's going on. That's why Earthlink has refused to install Carnivore, and why other ISPs are probably going to follow their lead."

Ari Schwartz

Dave Sims

Barry Steinhardt
Associate Director of the ACLU
Chair of the ACLU Cyber-liberties Task Force


"We know from past experience that the FBI has very expansive views about what they are entitled to, far more than, in fact, the law provides. We really shouldn't be in the position of 'Trust us, we're the government.' We really need to know not only what's going into Carnivore, but what's coming out."


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