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Opinion by The Atlantic: FBI Lies A lot – And It’s Often an Affront to Fourth Amendment & Consent

By Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic

The FBI lies a lot.

Sometimes that’s fully justified. Brave agents risk their lives to infiltrate terrorist cells, organized crime, and child-pornography rings. Subterfuge is vital to these operations, and needn’t harm the country if done correctly. But there are certain kinds of lies and untruths that the FBI should carefully avoid. FBI Director James Comey isn’t always able to identify them.

Consider his remarks on three separate subjects.

The first is the debate about whether Apple, Google, and other device manufacturers should build security vulnerabilities into their devices so that the tiny subset that police want to search can be compromised after a warrant is obtained. Comey went on 60 Minutes and misled its audience about whether a warrant is always needed to read your email. He “clarified” his remarks during a subsequent speech at the Brookings Institution. But key details of that speech turned out to be misleading too. Perhaps these were untruths spoken out of ignorance and lack of preparation rather than lies. Either way, an FBI director should take special care to speak accurately when engaged in public debate about important matters of public policy. Comey keeps failing that standard.

Subject No. 2 concerns an FBI lie that everyone acknowledges to be deliberate. Agents in Las Vegas suspected an illegal gambling ring was being run out of a few fancy hotel rooms. But they didn’t have enough evidence for a search warrant. The law forbade them from entering unless the inhabitants let them in voluntarily.

The agents hatched a scheme. They would shut off the room’s Internet connection as if it had broken, pose as hotel employees coming to fix the problem, and thereby gain the “consent” of the inhabitants to come in and look around. This is an affront to the Fourth Amendment and the concept of consent.

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