FBI's Carnivore-lies may have blown bin Laden inquiry

R. A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Thu May 30 09:13:24 EDT 2002


FBI's Carnivore-lies may have blown bin Laden inquiry
By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 29/05/2002 at 09:37 GMT

Fundamental design flaws in the FBI's infamous Carnivore packet sniffer
have led to the destruction of evidence related to a suspect possibly
involved in Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network which had been obtained
legally under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, the
watchdog group EPIC has learned.

The FBI has long denied that Carnivore is an indiscriminate tool which
vacuums up the personal correspondence of innocent persons not targeted for
surveillance. But an internal memo obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) shows that it does in fact gather the communications
of innocent third parties illegally. It appears the FBI has been lying
about Carnivore all along, and covering up its deficiencies even to the
Justice Department.

According to the memo, a cache of Carnivore evidence from a person legally
under surveillance also contained inadvertent and illegal captures from
regular Joes, which in turn inspired a perhaps too-conscientious technician
to destroy all of what had been gathered, including all material related to
the legitimate surveillance target.

The FBI can only hope that what it lost wouldn't have yielded any useful
intelligence; but of course no one will ever know that now.

The memo makes reference to another, related incident: "When you add this
story to the FISA mistakes covered in [another document], you have a
pattern of occurrences which indicate....an inability on the part of the
FBI to manage its FISAs," the author says.

An even more interesting paragraph complains that the FBI lied about
Carnivore to the Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and
Review (OIPR), as well as the public (which of course we expect it to do).
The memo appears to come from someone in OIPR, who reports that "OIPR was
never told that the software was experimental. OIPR was informed that it
would work."

Obviously it doesn't; and obviously the FBI has been lying through its
teeth about Carnivore all along, as we've suspected from day one.

You may recall that the DoJ, then under guidance from the child-obsessed
Janet Reno, commissioned a whitewash of Carnivore under an official
euphemism pitching it as an 'independent review'. But even with all the
Orwellian disclosure restrictions placed on the reviewers, it remained
clear that Carnivore was severely lacking in mechanisms to prevent illegal
collections, as well as any access auditing controls.

These glaring failures in its design, no doubt, are what inspired the
technician to blow up the entire yield. He likely realized that the data
was destined to be misused by overzealous agents.

As for what happens now, we can only guess. Enough useful evidence in the
so-called 'war on terror' has gone missing or been destroyed by
Washington's typical bureaucratic stuff-ups already. The FBI ignored
warnings from the Phoenix field office about foreigners taking pilot
training last Summer, and failed to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui while he
was in custody, well before the September atrocity and in spite of what
would turn out to be prescient warnings from field agents. If Carnivore can
only ruin an investigation, DoJ may well lose confidence in it and we may
all live to see it scrapped. Which it should be; it's a technological
fraud, after all.

As for the FBI and its little high-tech scam, we needn't be surprised.
Anyone acquainted with the findings of the Church Commission knows what
sorts they really are. But things have evolved since the Church days, and
indeed since the Reno days when pedophiles appeared at every turn. Now
they're led by a neo-Cromwellian sour-puss with the requisite disapproval
of drinking, music and dancing, along with a pronounced loathing of women's
breasts both real and artistically represented and an uncanny fondness for
firearms, whose only known distinction is having lost his Senate seat to a
dead man.

So drink up, and toast the fine men and women who would bring Justice to
every corner of the world.

And use crypto. Really good crypto. ®

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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