Nonprofit battles FBI – Judge orders bureau to respond

A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to review a nonprofit privacy group’s request for information about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet wiretap system by August 16, the Washington Post reported August 3.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is only one of many privacy groups and that has expressed concern about the system, called “Carnivore.”

The FBI has praised Carnivore as a way to carry out court-ordered wiretaps online. The system sifts through data from an Internet service provider to find the senders and recipients of a subject’s e-mail.

Critics fear the system’s potential for abuse. The new technology, they argue, could be used to track the e-mail of innocent people as well as targeted suspects.

Last month, the center and the American Civil Liberties Union filed separate requests for background materials about Carnivore under the Freedom of Information Act. The ACLU’s request is also pending.

The center then filed a federal lawsuit, saying that the Justice Department had missed a statutory deadline for responding to it.

The judge ordered that the FBI consider the request, but provided no guarantee that the center would actually get the materials. The FBI may argue that the system needs to remain classified, in which case the center might take further legal action.

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