of DCS-1000: VALIDATED
the grand scheme of things, post 9-11, in a time of government by
finger pointing, this weeks story about a glitch with DCS-1000
is not large. The significance of it is.
know what DCS-1000 is? Thats intentional. Does the name Carnivore
ring a stronger memory bell? It should. Thats the FBI computer
intelligence program to covertly monitor e-mail of suspects, all
preceded by appropriate warrants, all so carefully controlled as
to not grab the e-mail of innocents. Thats what we were told.
Well, crap called a rose wont ever smell like one, and Carnivore
renamed DCS-1000 to eliminate the ominous connotation of the name
will not change the ominous reality of the program.
the emerging story goes, based on documents obtained by the Electronic
Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in March 2000, the FBI unit investigating
Al Qaeda obtained a warrant to capture the e-mails of a Denver,
Colorado suspect. The Carnivore/DCS-1000 button got pushed, and
e-mails began to materialize from the suspectand a bunch of
other folks not under investigation.
this point, according to an internal memo obtained by EPIC, the
FBI technician running the program became so rattled over the unintended
intercepts that he destroyed all the captured e-mails, including
those of the suspect. (The FBI now says that the e-mails have been
recovered and are currently under seal at the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court that secretly oversees such sensitive matters.)
memo, from whom the FBI wont say, was sent to the FBI associate
general counsel for national security affairs, M.E. Bowman. The
memo primarily indicates the fury of someone at the Department of
Justices Office of Intelligence Policy and Reviewfirst
over the intercept foul-up, but more fundamentally over the sense
that the FBI had misled DOJ as to the readiness, capabilities and
containment of the program. The memos author also refers,
without detail, to other Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act mistakes.
memo was dated April 5, 2000. The author was preparing to "go
to the field" to deal with the problems. Yet, in July 2000,
approximately four months later, FBI Assistant Director Donald M.
Kerr was telling a Congressional Committee, "[Carnivore] selects
messages based on criteria set out in the court order, for example,
messages transmitted to or from a particular account or to or from
a particular user. If the device is placed at some point on the
network where it cannot discriminate messages as set out in the
court order, it simply lets all such messages pass by unrecorded."
FBI Director Muellers reorganization plan, we did not note
the formalization of an office of damage control, but that area
could use as much thoughtful refocus as the substantive responsibilities
of the FBI. With regard to the surveillance glitch, FBI spokesman
John Collingwood just this week blamed the problems on an Internet
Service Provider (ISP), and that may well be the scariest part of
have a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, supposedly administered
by the Department of Justice Office of Intelligence Policy and Review,
subject to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Court, presumably overseen, to some extent, by intelligence committees
of Congress, with operations, in this instance, carried out by the
FBIs Usama bin Laden unit of the International Terrorism Operations
Section. All that government apparatus, and this incident is the
result of problems at an ISP? That is, of course and unfortunately,
credible to anyone with a computer, but it shouldnt be, not
for critical and sensitive government intelligence operations.
are not among those who believe that publicly flogging the dead
horses of past intelligence mistakes will yield much consequential
guidance for the future. The collective catharsis of 9-11 will,
in and of itself, do more. It already has.
to Carnivore, its a nasty little program, defined more accurately
by its critics than its users: "Carnivore is a powerful but
clumsy tool that endangers the privacy of innocent American citizens.
We have now learned that its imprecision can also jeopardize important
investigations, including those involving terrorism," said
David Sobel, general counsel of EPIC.
adequately thwart terrorism, we need strong, decisive, cutting edge
intelligence and law enforcement. We do not need, and cannot abide,
those who would mislead their handlers, the courts, the Congress
and, by extension, the rest of us on whose behalf all such actions
May 30, 2002]