The Associated Press and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sued the U.S. Department of Justice today over the FBI’s failure to provide public records on the creation of a fake news story used to plant surveillance software on a suspect’s computer. At issue is a Freedom of Information request seeking documents related to the FBI’s decision to send a web link to the fake article to a 15-year-old boy suspected of making bomb threats to a high school near Olympia, Wa.. The link enabled the FBI to infect the suspect’s computer with software that revealed its location and Internet address.
AP objected to the ruse, which was uncovered last year in documents obtained through a separate FOIA request made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “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 told then-Attorney General Eric Holder. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, FBI Director James Comey revealed that an undercover FBI agent had also impersonated an AP reporter, asking the suspect if he would be willing to review a draft article about the bomb threats. Comey described the tactic as “proper and appropriate” under Justice Department guidelines in place at the time.