Critical Criminology

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 55-70

Governmentality and the War on Terror: FBI Project Carnivore and the Diffusion of Disciplinary Power

  • Holly E. VenturaAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina
  • , J. Mitchell MillerAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina
  • , Mathieu DeflemAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina

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Social control capabilities have increased significantly over the past several decades, particularly because of an increased utilization of technologically advanced surveillance methods. Following the tragic events of September 11,2001, U.S. Congress and the present Administration have granted law enforcement considerable new powers in the enforcement and prevention of terrorism-related crime. Collectively labeled under the heading of the so-called ‘‘war on terror’’ , the scope of such laws, policies and directives are challenged by civil rights organizations and numerous legislators for lack of definitional precision, arbitrary application of sanctions, and violation of privacy laws. One of federal law enforcement’s surveillance tools is ‘‘Project Carnivore,’’ a Justice Department Internet surveillance program that is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to access information flowing to and from a central processing unit on a network connection. While, theoretically relying on Michel Foucault’s theory of discipline and governmentality, as well as related insights in the social control literature, this paper examines Project Carnivore relative to the larger context of state rationality and related privacy issues.