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Daily Camera: It’s Never OK for FBI to Pose As News Reporters

typewriter-reporterBy Editorial Board
Daily Camera

The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general has cleared an FBI agent of wrongdoing for impersonating a journalist and using a fake Associated Press story to track down the 15-year-old who made bomb threats against a high school in the state of Washington nine years ago. The ruling sends a horrible message to agents — “do whatever you want, guys” — and has the potential to promote other ethically challenged behavior at an agency where professionalism should be a top priority.

With its stonewalling on records requests and bullying of reporters over news leaks, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama long ago set a new low for attempting to subvert the journalistic process.

Still, the inspector general’s ruling was a surprise partly because the FBI itself tacitly admitted mishandling the case. In June, it adopted a policy requiring agents to get high-level approval before impersonating a journalist in future investigations. Hopefully, the person reviewing those requests will have more scruples and better judgment than the DOJ inspector general or the FBI rogues who devised the 2007 caper.

Back then, law enforcement officials couldn’t figure out who was making bomb threats to Timberline High School via email. An agent contacted the suspect by email, posing as an AP “staff publisher,” and got him to open a link to a fake AP story about the bomb threats. The fake story was posted on a fake web page that resembled that of the Seattle Times. When the 15-year-old clicked on the link, it infected his computer with tracking software, leading authorities to him.

The FBI’s ruse and the inspector general’s whitewashing of it are damaging to journalism. But the government doesn’t care about that.

To read more click here. 


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