Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

54 Federal Communications Law Journal 543 (2002)


On July 11, 2000, the FBI intorduced Carnivore, an Internet monitoring system. It was designed, and is used exclusively, to carry out court-ordered surveillance of electronic communications. It is a tangible, portable device, tantamount to a phone tap, that allows the FBI to intercept and collect criminal suspects' e-mail without their knowledge or consent. This Note addresses competing and parallel interests between the government and society to determine the legitimacy and necessity of Carnivore. The purpose of this Note is twofold: first, to demonstrate the need for Carnivore to enable law enforcement to keep up with criminals who utilize cyberspace to communicate criminal plans; and second, to dispel privacy concerns associated with the system by allaying misconceptions and fears related to its implementation and usage.

Part II of this Note addresses the catalyzing reasons for Carnivore's design and use. Part III describes the FBI's extensive and mandatory internal procedures that govern the decision to use Carnivore, and addresses the three federal statutes that can empower Carnivore's use. Part IV explains Carnivore's method of operation. Part V articulates the privacy concerns raised by privacy advocates. Finally, this Note concludes by addressing policy considerations that should shape the future for Carnivore.