Media Credibility Threatened by FBI Falsification of AP News Story to Locate Bomb Suspect

Friday, October 31, 2014
(Graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The U.S. Department of Justice is not making any friends with the Associated Press (AP), which was outraged when it surfaced that federal agents had accessed the phone records of the news wire service a few years ago.


Now, it comes out that the Federal Bureau of Investigation created a phony AP story as part of an investigation into a would-be school bomber.


In 2007, a story headlined “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department” surfaced on the Internet featuring the AP logo. The article, however, originated in the FBI’s Seattle field office. Agents embedded the story with malware that would allow them to track anyone clicking on the link. The fake story resulted in the FBI arresting a 15-year-old who had made threats against Timberline High School.


“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,” spokesman Paul Colford said in a statement. “This ploy violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility.”


Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, who helped bring the matter to light, told The Washington Post that the FBI’s actions demonstrate that the “ends do not justify the means.”


He added: “It’s a dangerous road impersonating the media. If people do not trust the news media, then our democracy cannot function properly.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

FBI Lured Suspect with Fake Web Page, But May have Leveraged Media Credibility (by Ellen Nakashima and Paul Farhi, Washington Post)

FBI Confirms it Used Fake Story, Denies Bogus Times Web Link (by Mike Carter, Seattle Times)

Media Outlets ‘Outraged’ After FBI Caught Falsifying AP Story to Target Suspect (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)

Facebook Asks DEA to Stop Creating Fake Profiles (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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