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'CARNIVORE' EATS PRIVACY



Published: Thu, February 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



'CARNIVORE' EATS PRIVACY

Providence Journal: We are familiar with the warnings: There are terrorists on U.S. soil still plotting our destruction, and the only way to thwart them is to give up a lot of our privacy. Let the government tap our phones and open our mail -- whatever it takes to get rid of the terrorists!

After all, isn't that why our representatives gave the Justice Department wide-reaching powers with last fall's authorization of the USA Patriot Act? And, after all, we are trying to save lives.

Still, if we are to be subject to a massive loss of privacy, we should at least see what we are getting for our nakedness. We ought to be able to see how effective the unauthorized wiretaps and zealous incarcerations have been -- the specific circumstances, what was gained in national security protection, what was lost in privacy protection. Thus we could at least say whether we chose wisely in giving up some of our civil liberties for the cause.

Fortunately, the Congress included a provision in the recently passed 21st century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act that calls on the Justice Department to report fully on its use of "Carnivore," an astonishingly invasive technology that lets the FBI search through the text of tens of thousands of e-mails in seconds.

E-mails: Carnivore caused a huge ruckus among privacy advocates when it was introduced almost two years ago, and rightly so: It gives the FBI the ability to go through thousands of unrelated e-mails when it only needs to find one. While phone conversations go through a single line, e-mails are all centrally processed by an internet service provider, thus creating the potential for the FBI to look through far more text than it needs.

Yes, we know that the terrorists did some of their plotting using e-mail from public libraries, and perhaps we might have found something if we had somebody monitoring every e-mail communication. But that is a lot of e-mail. And terrorists are increasingly sophisticated at concealing their messages, using various encryptions, including hiding messages in music files and pornographic picture files. It is unclear how effective "Carnivore" will be in eating its way through sophisticated encryption.

Meanwhile, many of us use e-mail for some very personal (but not dangerous) communications that we would prefer government bureaucrats not to be reading. Which is why it makes sense to demand that the Justice Deparment divulge far more than it has about its use of Carnivore and the information it gets from it -- that way we can come to our own conclusions about whether our loss of privacy is worthwhile.

A CHANCE FOR ANGOLA

Washington Post: The death of one of Africa's most powerful and implacable warlords, Angola's Jonas Savimbi, has created a rare opportunity for progress in a nation that ought to be rich instead of ravaged. Twice the size of Texas, Angola has an abundance of oil and diamonds, but for decades the wealth they generate has been diverted into a grinding and largely senseless civil war between Mr. Savimbi and the government headed by his longtime nemesis, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. At least 500,000 Angolans have died in the fighting, and tens of thousands more have been maimed by land mines; despite more than $8 billion in annual exports, 75 percent of the population is impoverished, and 4 million of its 13 million people have been driven from their homes.

Now Mr. Savimbi is gone, killed by government forces in an ambush last week after 35 years of fighting. His passing should prompt Mr. dos Santos, who is in Washington to meet President Bush, to take aggressive steps to end the fighting and make a genuine start at reconstructing the country. The Angolan president has called on Mr. Savimbi's followers in the UNITA rebel movement to surrender, disarm and accept the terms of past peace accords calling for them to join the political system. This week, he spoke of negotiating a cease-fire "as soon as possible." Still, government troops reportedly are continuing to press an offensive against UNITA's remnants, and rebel commanders are responding with vows that they will fight on.

Peace process: President Bush should urge Mr. dos Santos to do more. The Angolan Catholic Church is pressing the government to unilaterally declare a cease-fire. Such an initiative by the government would cost it little in military terms but might encourage UNITA, reeling from the loss of its leader, to choose a peace process over more war. In contrast, further fighting now could shatter the rebel movement into fragments that will retreat back into the countryside and extend the fighting indefinitely.




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