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Tag: Associated Press

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. 

FBI Records: ‘Argument Can Be Made’ That Agents Violated Policy with Bogus News Article

AP LogoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When the FBI created a bogus Associated Press news story to capture a man who was making bomb threats to a school in suburban Washington, agents said they were doing nothing wrong.

But documents obtained through a public records lawsuit show the FBI had some misgivings about posting a bogus news story, the Associated Press reports. 

An internal FBI report said “an argument can be made” that agents violated protocol by failing to inform senior brass in Washington about the 2007 operation.

The records suggest that the FBI’s headquarters should have reviewed and given approval for such an undercover operation.

Nevertheless, the FBI’s Cyber Division said the bureau acted reasonably “under the circumstances.”

“Although an argument can be made the reported impersonation of a fictitious member of the media constituted a ‘sensitive circumstance’ that would have made the undercover activity subject to FBI HQ review and approval required for a Group 1 undercover operation, the facts of the case do not clearly indicate that such a sensitive circumstance existed,” the report says.

Associated Press Sues Justice Department Over Records Related to Fake AP Story

AP LogoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Associated Press is suing the Justice Department after the FBI created a fake AP story in an attempt to plant surveillance software on a suspect’s computer, the Huffington Post reports.

The AP filed suit Thursday over the FBI’s failure to provide public records related to the ruse.

“The FBI both misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press and created a situation where our credibility could have been undermined on a large scale,” AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser said in a 2014 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder.

The FBI used a fake AP story in hopes that a 15-year-old boy suspected of making bomb threats would click on the link, which would enable the software and reveal where he lived and his Internet address.

Since then, the FBI has refused to turn over documents related to the case.

“It is improper and inconsistent with a free press for government personnel to masquerade as The Associated Press or any other news organization,” Kaiser wrote. “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.”

Secret Service Testing Drones to Prepare How to Deal with Rogue Ones

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The Secret Service is testing drones in an effort to determine what to do when a rogue one is flying over head, The Associated Press reports.

During the next several weeks, the Secret Service will send drones over Washington D.C.

The sessions come a little more than a month after a drone crashed onto White House grounds.

One method the federal government is testing is jamming the signal of a rogue drone, which are powerful enough to carry explosives.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the testing.

FBI Agent Impersonates Associated Press Reporter to Nab Teen in Bomb Threats

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI went further than creating a bogus news site to capture a 15-year-old suspect accused of making bomb threats at a high school near Olympia, Washington.

An FBI agent impersonated an Associated Press reporter in 2007 and asked the suspect to review a bogus AP article about threats directed at the school “to be sure that the anonymous suspect was portrayed fairly,” the AP reports.

The news came in a letter Thursday to the New York Times.

The bogus article helped the FBI because his cyber information became available when the suspect clicked on the link.

“That technique was proper and appropriate under Justice Department and FBI 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,” Comey wrote.

The AP responded that the fake news report erodes confidence in the media.

“This latest revelation of how the FBI misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press doubles our concern and outrage, expressed earlier to Attorney General Eric Holder, about how the agency’s unacceptable tactics undermine AP and the vital distinction between the government and the press,” Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, said in a statement.

 

Seattle Times: FBI ‘Obliterated a Line That Should Have Never Been Crossed’ with Fake News Site

By Seattle Times
Editorial Board

The Associated Press has a well-earned reputation as an independent, credible government watchdog. That’s why the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s appropriation of that credibility in a 2007 case obliterated a line that should never have been crossed.

The laudable end — conviction of a student making school bomb threats — does not justify the government’s outrageous disregard of the role of the press in a free society. In fact, it utterly undermines that role at a time when media companies are struggling to remain strong in the face of government abuses over the last two presidential administrations.

On Monday, Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter reported that, in 2007, the FBI mocked up a fake Associated Press story. The intention was to trick a suspect in a series of bomb threats at Lacey’s Timberline High School to click on a link sent to his MySpace account. All this was done under the authority of a federal warrant.

When the suspect clicked on the link, hidden FBI software revealed the suspect’s location to agents.

Initially, Carter found documents suggesting the FBI had nestled the AP story in an email that looked like it was from a Seattle Times’ website. But FBI officials waited almost a full day after Carter’s story was published Monday evening to suggest that, while using The Times name was contemplated and mocked up, the link to the AP story was not sent using a Times email.

The bomb-threat case was serious, no question, and deserved vigorous enforcement efforts. But agents could have tricked the student in other ways — a free concert ticket or free video game. They should not have assumed the identity of a media organization.

The damage matters: “This ploy violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility,” said Paul Colford, director of AP media relations.

To read more click here.

Ex-FBI Bomb Technician Pleads Guilty to Disclosing National Defense Info to Associated Press

By Sari Horwitz
Washington Post

WASHINGTON –– A former FBI bomb technician who later worked as a contractor for the Bureau has agreed to plead guilty to disclosing national defense information about a disrupted terrorist plot to the Associated Press, according to the Justice Department.

Donald John Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Ind., who previously had agreed to plead guilty to charges of possessing and distributing child pornography in a separate investigation, provided information to an Associated Press reporter relating to the disruption of a plot to conduct a suicide bomb attack on a U.S.-bound airline by the Yemen-based terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the recovery by the U.S. of a bomb in connection with that plot, according to court documents filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

To read the full story click here. 

Justice Department Spying has ‘Chilling Effect’ on AP Reporters

 
Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The discovery that feds were spying on the Associated Press has had a “chilling effect” on the news agency, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter said, the U.S. News reports.

Reporter Martha Mendoza called the snooping “a massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the reporting of more than 20 reporters, the U.S. News wrote.

“These records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls with work and home phone numbers of individual reporters, the general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for the AP’s House of Representatives press gallery,” Mendoza told an audience at an award ceremony for journalists. “Has this had a chilling effect? It’s unbelievable. Yes it has.”

The AP believes the Justice Department seized phone records during an investigation related to a May 2012 story about the CIA preventing an al-Qaida plot to blow up a bomb about a U.S. plane.