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 For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 1, 2000


EPIC Calls for Withdrawal of "FIDNET" at Senate Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reviewed the Administration’s computer security plan. Civil liberties organizations have criticized the National Plan for Information Systems Protection, saying it would dramatically expand government surveillance of the nation’s communications network. They have singled out the Federal Intrusion Detection Network , "FIDNET," as raising far-reaching threats to American citizens.

Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), called the FIDNET proposal contrary to the "the spirit of the federal wiretap statute, the plain language of the federal Privacy Act, and the history of the Fourth Amendment." He said that "the FIDNET proposal, as currently conceived, must simply be withdrawn. It is impermissible in the United States to give a federal agency such extensive surveillance authority."

EPIC also released a government memo at the hearing, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which indicates that the U.S. Department of Justice is aware that the FIDNET proposal may violate U.S. law. Other records obtained by EPIC show that the government will use credit card records and telephone toll records as part of its intrusion detection system.

Rotenberg charged that backers of the security plan were "trying to apply twentieth century notions of national defense to twenty-first century problems of communications security."

Last year EPIC warned that a similar Critical Infrastructure Program posed risks to the civil liberties of Americans. The revised security plan discusses privacy issues in a number of places, but civil liberties organizations contend that the plan is long on rhetoric and short on safeguards. "The plan imply lacks the legal protections and independent oversight that would be necessary to prevent abuse," said Rotenberg.

Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the Americal Civil Liberties Union, added, "Based on their past record, it is quite clear that if Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI begin to monitor the use of Federal government websites and networks by ordinary people that they will seek ever greater surveillance powers and will abuse whatever power is given to them."

Also testifying at the hearing were John Tritak, Director, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office and Frank Cilluffo, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Senate Subcommittee is chaired by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ).

The Electronic Privacy information Center is a public interest research organization located in Washington, D.C. EPIC has conducted a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to determine the extent of government monitoring of American citizens. EPIC's report "Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Endangerment of Civil Liberties" is available for sale at the EPIC Bookstore along with other publications on privacy, encryption, and free expression. Also, see the ACLU Cyber-Liberties webpage.