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Law dean chosen to review 'Carnivore' isn't afraid of its bite

Dean Henry Perritt Jr.
Henry Perritt Jr., dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law  

(CNN) -- The dean of the law college participating in the review of the Justice Department's e-mail surveillance system says he won't be afraid of telling the government about any potential for privacy abuse with the technology.

As the head of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Henry Perritt Jr. is part of a two-person team from the school that will be working with six researchers from the IIT Research Institute in Illinois to determine if the so-called "Carnivore" system is staying within its parameters.

Both institutions are affiliated with the Chicago-based Illinois Institute of Technology, which was awarded the review contract Tuesday by the Justice Department. It is estimated to be worth $175,000.

Privacy advocates have been lobbying for an independent review of Carnivore to ensure that it adheres to the strict guidelines imposed by a court order and doesn't infringe on civil rights. Carnivore uses "sniffing" technology to examine the source of e-mails traveling through the network of an Internet Service Provider to determine whether they are pertinent to a criminal investigation. The FBI has used it in about 25 criminal cases so far.

That's where Perritt and the college's Associate Dean Harold Krent come in.

Perritt, who has an undergraduate degree in engineering, said he has spent considerable time studying the relationship between law and technology. Perritt is also the author of more than 70 law review articles and 15 books on technology and law.

He has served on President Bill Clinton's Transition Team working on telecommunications issues, and drafted principles for electronic dissemination of public information, which formed the core of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments adopted by Congress in 1996.

He said he and Krent will play an important role in bridging the gap between examining the requisite court order information and the institute's technical researchers.

"The issues of privacy and the right balance between surveillance and privacy are really important issues," Perritt said. "Balance from the past has to be reevaluated or adjusted to keep up with the new technology."

And he expressed no uncertainty in presenting findings to the Justice Department regarding possible problems.

"I get the sense that they want us to do that," Perritt said, referring to the input he has received through the Justice Department. "We wouldn't have the slightest hesitation to say there's something wrong with it if there is."

Perritt dismissed previously reported suggestions that anything written in the presentation could be altered or edited by the Justice Department, saying he has heard nothing that points in that direction. Several high-profile universities turned down the review offer this month because they felt the Justice Department's requirements were too confining.

Perritt said he believes the college, which is more than 100 years old, is a "quick turnaround operation" and should have no trouble in completing their findings on time. According to the Justice Department, a draft report will be made available for public comment in November with the final draft due in December.

Justice Department selects Illinois institution to review 'Carnivore'
September 26, 2000
Justice Department mum about who will review 'Carnivore'
September 7, 2000
FBI to release Carnivore documents, but schedule draws fire
August 17, 2000
FBI says Carnivore will not devour privacy
July 21, 2000
ACLU: Block FBI e-snoops
July 17, 2000

U.S. Department of Justice
Chicago-Kent College of Law

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