Documents unearthed this week revealed that the FBI compromised the computer of a 15-year-old student in 2007 in an effort to positively identify the person thought responsible for sending bomb threats to a Washington state high school. Yet while questions were quickly raised after that revelation about the ethics involved in letting federal investigators conduct full-fledged hacking, how exactly the FBI installed spyware on their target’s computer — by sending the suspect a link disguised to look like an AP article published by the Seattle Times — has now alarmed not only the news wire, but a leading lawmaker in Washington.
Only days after details of the 2007 operation were disclosed this week, the AP and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, both sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday expressing their concern over the FBI’s conduct.
“When law enforcement appropriates the identity of legitimate media institutions, it not only raises questions of copyright and trademark infringement but also potentially undermines the integrity and credibility of an independent press,” Leahy wrote in his letter to Holder.
"The FBI both misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press and created a situation where our credibility could have been undermined on a large scale," AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser wrote in the newswire’s letter. "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."