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Justice Department mum about who will review 'Carnivore'

(CNN) -- Several research teams submitted bids to review the FBI's controversial e-mail surveillance system, but the federal government will not reveal their identities until it completes the selection process, the U.S. assistant attorney general said Thursday.

"We know who has applied," said Stephen Colgate. "All I can say is that we have received multiple proposals."

Colgate said the Justice Department expected to select a finalist within a week, but declined to offer more specifics.

"Until the process is completed, I can't say who has applied."

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The Justice Department first approached Internet security specialists at major universities last month, requesting them to verify that the eavesdropping technology known as "Carnivore" does not violate individual civil rights.

But all of them bowed out of the running before the Wednesday deadline, citing excessively restrictive requirements that would prevent an independent review, several candidate researchers said.

However, Colgate suggested in an earlier interview with CNN.com that a non-academic team could perform the review, perhaps a software testing and validation firm.

Teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of California at San Diego declined to take part in the review.

Some university researchers suggested that they would consider sidestepping the department to perform an independent review.

Tom Perrine of UCSD said he hoped to gain access to the Carnivore code through another means, perhaps from a different section of the federal government.

Carnivore works as a "black box" attached to the core of ISP networks. Using court orders, the FBI controls the system from a remote location to monitor and retrieve e-mail messages of criminal suspects. It has been used in about 25 investigations in the last year, including criminal cases and "national security" cases involving counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism.

The FBI and the Justice Department maintain that strict oversight by the courts would prevent abuses of the system. The pledge has failed to assure electronic privacy activists that only legitimate uses would take place.

"I trust (Attorney General Janet) Reno, but I don't know the intent of her successors," said Jeffrey Schiller, an MIT computer security expert contacted to participate in the review. "The fact of the matter is, once it's deployed, there's no guarantee of the intent of successors. Look at J. Edgar Hoover."



RELATED STORIES:
Senate panel examines FBI Internet surveillance system
September 6, 2000
Universities unwilling to review FBI's 'Carnivore' system
September 6, 2000
U.S. Justice Department releases criteria for 'Carnivore' review
August 25, 2000
FBI to release Carnivore documents, but schedule draws fire
August 17, 2000
FBI says Carnivore will not devour privacy
July 21, 2000

RELATED SITES:
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
American Civil Liberties Union
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dartmouth College
University of Michigan
Purdue University
University of California, San Diego


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