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    Associated Press Sues FBI Over Access Records About Fabricated News Stories

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    The Associated Press joined a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday. The suit alleges that the FBI failed to provide public records about a sting operation in which law enforcement posed as the news agency.

    The AP has joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in filing the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case relates to an operation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    In an attempt to install surveillance software on the computer of a 15-year-old boy who had allegedly threatened to bomb a high school, federal agents posed as the Associated Press by creating a fake news article.

    By fooling the suspect into clicking the web link, the software could be installed which allowed law enforcement to track the suspect's locations and Internet address.

    The FBI then failed to respond to a 2014 Freedom of Information request from the AP, which was seeking information on the sting operation.

    Documents received from a separate FOIA request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation first brought the FBI's actions to light.

    AP slammed the Justice Department for casting the news agency in a negative light and undermining its credibility.

    "It is improper and inconsistent with a free press for government personnel to masquerade as The Associated Press or any other news organization," AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser said in a 2014 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder.

    AP also pointed out that the fabricated story could have been shared across social media platforms, potentially spreading forged material intended for one individual to thousands.

    "The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation," said Kaiser.

    FBI Director James Comey also revealed last November that an undercover FBI agent posed as an AP journalist, asking the suspected boy to review a draft of the forged story.

    Referring to the Justice Department's guidelines, Comey justified these actions as "proper and appropriate".

    The FBI director also insisted that such a tactic would require higher-level approval under current agency guidelines. But even with stricter protocols in place, Comey said the controversial tactic could still be "in a rare case, appropriate."

    As part of the suit, the Associated Press also demands to know how many times the FBI has impersonated media organizations since 2000.

    Without a court order from a judge, the FBI indicated it would take about two years to find and process the documents requested by the AP.

    This is not the first time this year that the Associated Press has filed a lawsuit against the US government. The news organization also filed a FOIA lawsuit against the State Department in an attempt to force the release of Hillary Clinton's emails.

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    Tags:
    fabricated reports, software, surveillance, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Associated Press, U.S. Department of Justice, James Comey, Eric Holder, United States
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