Friday, November 7, 2014

FBI Agent Impersonates AP Reporter

Chris Grygiel of AP via TPM:

In a letter Thursday to The New York Times, [FBI director James] Comey said the agent "portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press" to help catch a 15-year-old suspect accused of making bomb threats at a high school near Olympia, Washington. It was publicized last week that the FBI forged an AP story during its investigation, but Comey's letter revealed the agency went further and had an agent actually pretend to be a reporter for the wire service.

Comey said the agent posing as an AP reporter asked the suspect to review a fake AP article about threats and cyberattacks directed at the school, "to be sure that the anonymous suspect was portrayed fairly."

The bogus article contained a software tool that could verify Internet addresses. The suspect clicked on a link, revealing his computer's location and Internet address, which helped agents confirm his identity.

The AP of course responded by deeming the FBI's action in this case "unacceptable." Indeed it was, and is. Paraphrasing AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll, not only must the government and the press be in fact distinct, but  the public must have confidence in the enforcement of that distinction for the press to fulfill its essential role as watchdog. We simply can't have secret government agents masquerading as members of the press, not if we want to keep whatever vestige we have of checks and balances.

Remember, in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, in reference to Sherlock's brilliant but reclusive brother Mycroft, who was a high official in the British government, it is said that Mycroft was the British government? Well, in today's America, our three-letter agencies (FBI, NSA, DHS etc.) are far less benign than Mycroft, but it has reached the point at which they are the American government. As certifiable motherlover Ari Fleischer said, Americans need to "watch what they say, watch what they do..."

(I know it has an ampersand in it and names a corporation, but can we lump AT&T in with the three-letter agencies?)

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