The Newspaper Guild-CWA, the News Media Guild representing AP journalists and the Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Guild are disgusted and outraged by the revelation this week that the FBI posed as The Associated Press in planting an online story to catch a teenage bomb threat suspect in 2007.
Even worse, the FBI is expressing no regret or any real understanding that misappropriating the news service, putting their credibility at risk, was unethical.
The FBI is denying initial reports that it planted the story on a fake Seattle Times website, saying that only been a “suggestion” while planning the sting.
As revealed in documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FBI sent a link to the suspect’s MySpace page. When he clicked to read the fake AP story, it triggered spyware that led to his location and arrest. The suspect was a Seattle-area 15-year-old boy.
As the Times editorial board pointed out this week, agents have many tools at their disposal that don’t compromise the integrity of journalists or their organizations. Trickery with freebies such as concert tickets and video games could have been used to lure a suspect out of hiding.
In that editorial, the Times posed two questions to Seattle’s lead FBI agent and FBI Director James Comey: How often do agents appropriate media company identities and when will they stop? We want those answers, too.
Journalists earn the public’s trust by serving as a community’s eyes and ears, as watchdogs who can be relied on to expose government wrongdoing. Any hint that a journalist or news organization is aiding law enforcement damages their reputation as an objective, trustworthy source of news.
Freedom of the press means independence at all times from government intrusion. The FBI’s behavior adds to a disturbing and growing list of government actions that are threatening the ability of journalists to do their jobs. We will not stand for it.
Formed by newspaper journalists in 1933, The Newspaper Guild-CWA, also known as NewsGuild-CWA, represents 25,000 media and other workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.