Accuracy in Media


The FBI, which came under heavy criticism from the media last month after it was revealed that an agent posed as an AP reporter in 2007 during an investigation into bomb threats at a high school in the Seattle area, refused yesterday to rule out employing the same tactics in the future.

FBI Director James Comey said that while an agent may pose as a journalist in the future, it would be rare and “done carefully with significant supervision, if it’s going to be done.”

Comey defended the tactics in a letter to The New York Times, saying that the “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.”

In this case, the FBI agent posing as an AP reporter asked the suspect to review a fake AP article for fairness and accuracy about threats and cyberattacks directed at the school. What the suspect didn’t know was that the article contained a software tracking tool that revealed the computer’s location and IP address when a link was clicked, thus confirming his identity.

The AP seems to be more concerned with the effect the tactics may have on their reputation, than the fact that capturing the bombing suspect probably saved lives. Perhaps, though, if their reputation, along with that of the rest of the mainstream media, had been better to begin with, the suspect wouldn’t have fallen into the FBI’s trap.

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