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U.S. official: University to review FBI's Internet-wiretap system

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A U.S. Justice Department official said Thursday he expected a university will be selected within 10 days to begin the long-awaited review of the FBI's Internet-wiretap system called Carnivore, which has drawn criticism for potential privacy abuses.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Colgate outlined the steps in the process calling for independent experts at a major university to review the software and hardware of the system, which has raised concern of privacy groups and some lawmakers.

The system allows the FBI to intercept the e-mails of a criminal suspect among the flood of other data passing through an Internet service provider.

FBI officials maintain the court-authorized wiretaps will only focus on criminal suspects who are targets of an investigation.

But privacy advocates and some members of Congress fear the system may cast too wide a net, encompassing private information about legal activities and leading to potential abuses.

Colgate told reporters he expects a total of nine universities will be contacted. Three have been so far. He declined to identify the universities.

After getting reaction from privacy and law enforcement groups, one will be recommended to Attorney General Janet Reno. He said the university will be selected partly based on its technical expertise in computers and its ability to conduct a "thorough and timely" review.

Reno said the university experts will have "total access" to any information they need to conduct their review.

Colgate said that after completing their review he expects the university experts to make their report public so that comments can be received.

Then a team of four Justice Department officials and one FBI official, chaired by Colgate, will review the report and the comments, and pass on their recommendations to Reno, who will have final say in the matter, he said.

"My hope is that we will have this whole process wrapped up by December," Colgate said.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



RELATED STORIES:
Judge sets FBI e-mail scanning disclosure
August 3, 2000
Privacy group asks judge to release details of e-mail spy system
August 2, 2000
FBI says Carnivore will not devour privacy
July 21, 2000
Critics bash U.S. plan for surveillance standards
July 21, 2000
ACLU: Block FBI e-snoops
July 17, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union

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