Gotta love this story. In 2000, the FBI apparently used Carnivore electronic surveillance in an attempt to collect information on Osama bin Laden’s network. Unfortunately they screwed up and also collected a whole bunch of e-mails exchanged by “non-covered targets” – you know, real people, folks who didn’t think the FBI was going to be looking over their shoulder. Of course, that’s exactly what the FBI promised would never happen when they sought approval of the Carnivore technology. Then the FBI tech was “so upset” that he destroyed ALL of the collected email, including whatever potentially useful information had been gathered on the real target, instead of only destroying the information that was not covered by the warrant.
This information comes from a memo obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington advocacy group, pursuing a Freedom of Information request. Interestingly, the memo wasn’t included in the first documents produced pursuant to that request, and only emerged after EPIC went back to court to get full compliance. Perhaps that has something to do with an issue discussed in the memo – the memo said Justice officials worried the destruction of the evidence would signal an “inability on the part of the FBI to manage” the warrants that are key tools in espionage and anti-terrorism cases.