Seattle Times 'Outraged' Over FBI's Fake News Story To Catch Bomb-Threat Suspect

Seattle Times 'Outraged' Over FBI's Fake Story To Catch Bomb-Threat Suspect

The Seattle Times expressed outrage Monday night after a report revealed that the FBI had created a fake news story mimicking the paper to catch the suspect behind multiple high school bomb threats in 2007.

Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show that a false story created by the FBI in Seattle was posted on a fake web page "in the style of The Seattle Times," along with an Associated Press byline, in order to track down a young suspect believed to be involved in a number of bomb threats to Timberline High School. The link was sent to the suspect's MySpace account, and, when clicked on, would provide the FBI with further information and details on the suspects location, the Times said.

The surveillance tactic eventually led to the identification and arrest of a 15-year-old student, who later pleaded guilty to the bomb threats.

Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, highlighted the FBI's actions on Twitter Monday night, calling it "irresponsible":

In 2007, FBI sent malware via a link intended to look like a Seattle Times/AP story. at pages 61-62.

— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) October 27, 2014

That the FBI impersonated a newspaper's website to deliver malware to a target is outrageous. Over the top crazy.

— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) October 27, 2014

The FBI impersonating the press is just as irresponsible as the CIA running fake immunization programs. Completely unacceptable.

— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) October 27, 2014

“We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,” Seattle Times editor Kathy Best said. “Not only does that cross a line, it erases it."

The FBI defended its actions, however, claiming that this particular technique only occurs "in very rare circumstances."

“Every effort we made in this investigation had the goal of preventing a tragic event like what happened at Marysville and Seattle Pacific University,” said Frank Montoya Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle division. “We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting."

UPDATE (2:50): The Associated Press responded to The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday:

"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," director of media relations Paul Colford wrote. "This ploy violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility."

Before You Go

Popular in the Community