Tags: FBI | Seattle Times | bomb suspect | Associated Press | fake news story

FBI Slammed for Faking News Story to Catch Bomb Suspect

By    |   Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 10:58 AM

The FBI has come under fire for faking a news story on a bogus Seattle Times web page to catch a suspect accused of threatening to blow up a high school.

The FBI created the phony story and website to plant software in the computer of the teenager after a series of bomb threats in 2007 against Lacey’s Timberline High School in Seattle, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The Seattle Times reported.

The sham was revealed this week by Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., who called it "outrageous."

Soghoian told the Times that if law enforcement agencies start using the media for devious reasons, the practice could lead to "significant collateral damage to the public trust."

The documents of the San Francisco-based EFF showed that the FBI in Seattle created a story with an Associated Press byline about the bomb threats with an email link "in the style of The Seattle Times," complete with subscriber and advertiser information.

After the link was sent to the suspect’s MySpace account and the teen clicked on it, the hidden software sent his location and Internet information to FBI agents. A 15-year-old suspect was later arrested and convicted.

Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best blasted the FBI’s deception, saying, "Not only does that cross a line, it erases it."

She added, "We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect."

"Our reputation and our ability to do our job as a government watchdog are based on trust. Nothing is more fundamental to that trust than our independence, from law enforcement, from government. The FBI’s actions, taken without our knowledge, traded on our reputation and put it at peril."

Associated Press director of media relations Paul Colford also blasted the trickery, pointing out that the ploy "violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility."

Colford told the Times, "We are extremely concerned and find it unacceptable that the FBI misappropriated the name of The Associated Press and published a false story attributed to AP."

But Frank Montoya Jr., the special agent in charge of Seattle’s FBI office, defended the ruse, saying, "Every effort we made in this investigation had the goal of preventing a tragic event like what happened at Marysville and Seattle Pacific University."

He continued, "We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting.

"Use of that type of technique happens in very rare circumstances and only when there is sufficient reason to believe it could be successful in resolving a threat."

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The FBI has come under fire for faking a news story on a bogus Seattle Times web page to catch a suspect accused of threatening to blow up a high school.
FBI, Seattle Times, bomb suspect, Associated Press, fake news story
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2014-58-29
Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 10:58 AM
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