FBI Won’t Ban Agents from Masquerading as Journalists, But Imposed Restriction

AP LogoBy Steve Neavling

When an FBI agent was exposed for masquerading as an Associated Press journalist in 2014, the media condemned the tactic, saying sources would be afraid to speak freely to reporters.

Now the FBI has imposed new restrictions on agents posing as agents, but the bureau stopped short of ending the practice.

The AP reports that agents must now gain top-level approval to impersonate journalists, which means the tactic may still be used in some cases.

The AP and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a lawsuit against the FBI last year after an agent impersonated an AP reporter by sending a fake news story “that was booby-trapped with surveillance software” in 2007. The trick led to the conviction of a teenager who had called in fake bomb threats in Washington.

The AP called the tactic “improper and inconsistent with a free press for government personnel to masquerade as The Associated Press or any other news organization.”

Nevertheless, FBI Director James Comey defended the practice in 2014 as “proper and appropriate.”

It’s unclear who often FBI agents pose as reporters.

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