In an interesting article at The Hill today, Julian Hattem details a lawsuit by The Associated Press, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, asking a district court for information from the Department of Justice regarding the FBI’s impersonation of a journalist and creation of a fake story in 2007.
This story is worthy of discussion on this security focused magazine because it could have an affect on what tools law enforcement officials have at their disposal in the pursuit of criminals in the future.
Read the entire article here – but below are the essentials.
The case revolves around an incident where an FBI agent pretended to be an AP reporter in an effort to nab a teenager suspected of making bomb threats to a local high school in 2007. The agent created copy for a fictitious AP story about the bomb threat and placed it on a website imitating The Seattle Times with the intent to plant malicious software on the suspect’s computer.
The FBI agent sent the fake story headlined “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department” to the suspect’s Myspace account.
Once the suspect clicked on the story, malware that was designed to provide his location infected his computer. The bogus story eventually led to the arrest of a 15-year-old student.
Hattem reports that media organizations were furious at the time claiming that the FBI had undercut the legitimacy of a free press.
The FBI’s position is that the use of the fake story was a legitimate tool used to thwart a possible act of terror. No one except the suspect saw or interacted with the story so no harm was done to the sanctity of a free press.
What do you think?
Was there damage to our right to a free and open press in this instance?
Is our right to a free press so important that we shouldn’t allow this type of imitation for fear of the slippery slope to a world that would eventually be filled with bogus news stories created to capture criminals?
Is the AP overreacting since in this case the FBI targeted only the suspect and not the public?
Give us your opinion on our Facebook Discussion of the topic