Media agencies are in an uproar over tactics used by the FBI back in 2007 to catch an anonymous individual who was sending bomb threats to Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash.
It seems that after consulting with the Seattle Times site for guidance, according to the Washington Post, the FBI Seattle division was able to create a bogus website in the style of the Seattle Times news website, complete with an Associated Press (AP) byline.
The link to the fake news with the headlines: "Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department" and "Technology savvy student holds Timberline High School hostage," was sent to the suspect's MySpace account via a private message. When the URL was opened, a software was automatically downloaded into the suspect's computer to give agents information on the computer's IP address and his location.
The suspect, who was 15 years old at the time, was arrested and pleaded guilty to making the bomb threats against the school.
Although the FBI has been defending their use of the bogus news website because it enabled them to capture a potentially violent individual, who was making grave threats against a school full of children, the Seattle Times and AP are not at all impressed.
Seattle Times editor Kathy Best has sharp words regarding the revelation.
"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," she said.
Paul Colford, AP's director of media relations said, the tactic "violated AP's name and undermined AP's credibility."
Investigations are now underway to determine whether the FBI indeed crossed the line when they mocked up the news website using the AP byline.
According to the FBI, such tactics are quite rare and used only in circumstances when the ends justify the means.
The news organizations believe the move undermined their credibility.