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[FYI] Scarfo case could test cyber-spying tactic


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Monday, December 4, 2000  

Scarfo case could test cyber-spying tactic  

By George Anastasia 


A federal gambling case against the son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo 
"Little Nicky" Scarfo could instead be the first legal test of 
cutting-edge cyber-surveillance technology that some critics of 
federal investigations say borders on Big Brotherism.  

Court records in the pending case indicate that Nicodemo S. Scarfo, 
35, was the target of a sophisticated surveillance tool - a so-called 
keystroke-logging device - that allowed the FBI to reproduce every 
stroke he entered on a computer on which gambling records allegedly 
were stored.  

Scarfo subsequently was charged with supervising a mob-linked 
bookmaking and loan-sharking operation in North Jersey.  

Questions about the FBI's spying methods in the Scarfo investigation 
surface at a time when defense lawyers and civil libertarians have 
begun to ask how far federal authorities should be permitted to go 
with electronic surveillance. Critics say that technology is evolving 
faster than the laws governing privacy rights and that federal 
investigators, emboldened by the capabilities of their cyber-tools, 
frequently disregard constitutional guarantees.  

"Anything he typed on that keyboard - a letter to his lawyer, 
personal or medical records, legitimate business records - they got 
it all," said Donald Manno, Scarfo's longtime lawyer.  

"That's scary. It's dangerous," he said.  


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