The FBI's Carnivore email surveillance system has come to hold public attention in recent weeks. Some observers attribute interest to the software's colorful code name, while others link it to a growing public concern with Internet privacy.
As the software gained prominence through a series of Washington hearings, the FBI and the Department of Justice were put on the defensive. With critics in pursuit, US Attorney General Janet Reno said last Thursday that she and other law officers have agreed on a review process for Carnivore.
The Carnivore sniffer has been used by the FBI for about three years to monitor criminal suspects' email in national security and criminal investigations. While the FBI says its use is legal under US wiretap law, privacy advocates are questioning whether laws that allow telephone lines to be used for detecting criminal activity should be extended to the Internet.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled press conference, Reno said the government is currently looking for a university with enough expertise to review the Carnivore system. The university review team would have complete access to any information needed to conduct its review.
When asked how long the process would take, Reno expressed uncertainty.
"I would hope we could do it quickly but, as you know, I sometimes get frustrated in these hopes," Reno said.
Includes material from IDG News Service.