FBI

Associated Press to FBI: Stop Pretending to Be Us

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Sexy journalist costume. Post-Halloween sale, 50 percent off.
Credit: Sculder1909 | Dreamstime.com

In 2007, an FBI agent pretended to be a journalist from the Associated Press to trick an anonymous suspect into clicking on an e-mail link that installed malware to track the guy. This was all done to catch a guy who launched cyberattacks and sent in bomb threats to a Seattle high school.

The Associated Press is not happy. They've already had to deal with the Department of Justice quietly seizing their phone records in order to track down a leaker, which obviously serves (possibly deliberately) to scare away other potential federal leakers or whistleblowers. Now they have to worry that they'll be unable to interact with anybody engaged in any sort of sketchy behavior if they think they're actually corresponding with a federal agent.

The New York Times took note of this behavior, as well as another incident where the FBI, unable to get a warrant to search Las Vegas hotel rooms to investigate possible illegal gambling, shut down their targets' Internet and then posed as repairmen in order to gain access. In an editorial, the Times worried that these deceptive methods would lead to wider constitutional abuses.

FBI Director James Comey responded that their Associated Press impersonation was completely legal, and besides, they didn't really publish an actual story anywhere posing as the press. Only their suspect interacted with the fake reporter. But even though it was completely legal then, maybe there would be more oversight now, Comey admits:

That technique was proper and appropriate under Justice Department and F.B.I. guidelines at the time. Today, the use of such an unusual technique would probably require higher level approvals than in 2007, but it would still be lawful and, in a rare case, appropriate.

So it was legal at the time, even though we've now put in more steps before they can do this, so what's everybody worried about?

The Associated Press and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is not having it. They've sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding they stop impersonating the media. Via CNN:

"The utilization of news media as a cover for delivery of electronic surveillance software is unacceptable. This practice endangers the media's credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government," it said.

"It undermines media organizations' ability to independently report on law enforcement. It lends itself to the appearance that media organizations are compelled to speak on behalf of the government." …

"The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation."

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  1. “The utilization of news media as a cover for delivery of electronic surveillance software is unacceptable. This practice endangers the media’s credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government,” it said.

    “It undermines media organizations’ ability to independently report on law enforcement. It lends itself to the appearance that media organizations are compelled to speak on behalf of the government.”

    I’m tempted to call this an intended side-effect, but frankly I don’t think anyone at the FBI is capable of thinking that far ahead.

    1. This practice endangers the media’s credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government.

      That’s cute.

  2. American public to AP:
    Start acting like something other than a branch of the government!

    1. I am continually amazed (not really!!) at how subservient the press is to the Obama administration. They really are learning to love the boot on their neck.

  3. How long are they going to milk this?

    1. Until the FBI agents involved get arrested and charged with various crimes in New York on the grounds that they intended to “harm the reputation” of the Associated Press journalist. See the leading case in this area:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  4. FBI to AP: Quit pretending to be press.

  5. Go ahead and pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. It doesn’t matter.

    1. You know what’s funny about that? If you’re still buying ink by the barrel, you’re irrelevant.

  6. my friend’s sister-in-law makes $82 /hr on the laptop . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her paycheck was $15787 just working on the laptop for a few hours. hop over to this website….

    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  7. “Mrs. Johannessburrl?”
    “Who is it?”
    “…Flowers”
    “Flowers for who?”
    “…AP ma’am”
    “I don’t need a reporter… you’re that clever Fed aren’t you?”

  8. The Associated Press is not happy. They’ve already had to deal with the Department of Justice quietly seizing their phone records in order to track down a leaker, which obviously serves (possibly deliberately) to scare away other potential federal leakers or whistleblowers.

    “Possibly” deliberately? There’s people (outside the administration and dedicated progs) who believe that wasn’t the entire point of it?

    1. Yes, it’s obviously a deliberate effect.

      I’m not a fan of the AP, but by golly, this smacks of something totally illegal to me. Only in today’s environment, where authority comes from “I said so,” is the FBI doing anything other than crawling into its shell.

      1. this smacks of something totally illegal to me

        How so? Cops have had the green light to lie since forever.

        1. Impersonating the sacred priests of the free press is an unforgivable sin, according to the priests.

      2. The AP has to protect their brand. If just anyone parades around with an AP logo on their jacket, it could do serious damage to the Obama administration.

      3. See? If we only had the guts to license journalists, then we could nail them on fraud.

        But we are too namby-pamby and let anyone claim freedom of the press for themselves (some of whom haven’t even gone to college!).

        More credentialism would save us from the g-men.

      4. Were I the AP, I’d start greenlighting hit pieces on the FBI.

  9. FBI Director James Comey responded that their Associated Press impersonation was completely lega

    Unfortunately, it is. If it weren’t a standard practice, we wouldn’t have… what… 60+ years of cinema where agents dress up as dry cleaners.

  10. distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation.”

    Wait, this just sank in. There’s a statement to be made here about taking Administration talking points and press releases and publishing them as news…

  11. This practice endangers the media’s credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government

    Maybe you should also consider not acting like Pravda while you’re at it. Just a thought.

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