AP sues FBI over fake news story

AP, Reporters Committee sue FBI to deliver records of fake news story used to deceive suspected bomber

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

FBI Building in Washington DC

The Associated Press (AP) and the Reported Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) brought an lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Department of Justice (DoJ) on Thursday to turn over records of FBI’s using fake news to deceive suspects since 2000.

The issue emerged after the leakage in October 2014 of FBI using a fake news link with AP byline to reach a suspected bomb planner .

"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 wrote in his letter in 2014 to then-Attorney General Eric Holder.

AP and RCFP made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from FBI to release records of this and other cases where FBI agents posed as journalists or used false article links. FBI, however, replied it would take two or more years to gather this information.  

Reporters Committee Litigation Director Katie Townsend said "We cannot overstate how damaging it is for federal agents to pose as journalists."

“FBI seems determined to withhold that information. We have been left with no choice but to look to the court for relief," she continued.

FBI had sent a link they created with AP byline to the myspace account of a 15 year old boy who was suspected of bomb threats made that year to Timberline High School in Washington in 2007.

As the boy clicked the link, a malware made it possible for FBI to reach the boy’s computer, therefore his IP and location.

FBI Director James Comey wrote an article in New York Times in November 2014 on “the FBI’s use of deception” as the case came to media attention.

“We do use deception at times to catch crooks, but we are acting responsibly and legally.” he wrote.

Comey also said that a federal agent reached the suspect online impersonating an AP reporter and asked the suspect to review a draft article. The boy then clicked on the link to the supposed article, which made FBI solve the case.

“No actual story was published, and no one except the suspect interacted with the undercover “AP” employee or saw the fake draft story. Only the suspect was fooled, and it led to his arrest and the end of a frightening period for a high school” he said.


TRTWorld and agencies