Journalists Can’t Pose as FBI Agents, but Heck Yeah, FBI Agents Actually Can Pose as Journalists, Inspector General Says 

fbi-hoover

The FBI also did not violate policy when an agent impersonated an editor with the Associated Press in 2007, the Inspector General found.

Alan Neuhauser reports: FBI agents may impersonate journalists while conducting undercover investigations, and an agent who posed as an editor with the Associated Press during a 2007 investigation did not violate agency policies, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found in a report released Thursday.

“The Associated Press is deeply disappointed by the Inspector General’s findings, which effectively condone the FBI’s impersonation of an AP journalist in 2007. Such action compromises the ability of a free press to gather the news safely and effectively and raises serious constitutional concerns.”

— Associated Press Vice President Paul Colford, in a statement

The conclusion sparked consternation across social media by journalists, civil rights groups and some legal experts, who have argued that the practice – by its very existence – threatens to heighten public mistrust of reporters, damage journalists’ credibility and have a chilling effect on sources and whistleblowers who may fear that their contacts in the media are actually undercover agents.

“The Associated Press is deeply disappointed by the Inspector General’s findings, which effectively condone the FBI’s impersonation of an AP journalist in 2007,” Associated Press Vice President Paul Colford said in a statement. “Such action compromises the ability of a free press to gather the news safely and effectively and raises serious constitutional concerns.”

[Read the full story here, at US News]

The inspector general’s report acknowledged that the practice calls for “a higher level of approval” by FBI supervisors than was in place in 2007. Policies on impersonating journalists at the time were “less than clear,” it found. However, a new interim policy adopted this June – one that permits agents to pose as journalists so long as they get approval from two high-ranking officials and an undercover review committee at headquarters – meets that requirement.

“We believe the new interim policy on undercover activities that involve FBI employees posing as members of the news media is a significant improvement to FBI policies that existed,” the inspector general wrote in the 26-page report.

The Associated Press and the American Civil Liberties Union, however, maintain the new measures are insufficient.

“The FBI guidelines adopted in 2016 in response to this incident still permit the FBI to impersonate news organizations and other third parties without their consent in certain cases, and fail to address the host of other dangers associated with FBI hacking,” ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani sad in a statement….(read more)

Source: US News



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