by Dan Ward
I’ve written many times about free speech issues, and have shared concern here about Justice Department intrusions on the freedom of the press.
That said, I’m having a hard time defending the Associated Press in its latest dispute with the FBI.
In 2007, a 15-year-old in Washington state was making bomb threats and directing cyber attacks at a Seattle high school, and the FBI was having a difficult time tracking him down.
Having profiled the suspect as a narcissist, an FBI agent communicated online with him, posing as an AP reporter to ask if he would be willing to draft an article about the threats. The request included a link to a fake AP story that included tracking software, which led agents to the suspect.
The AP calls this an “unacceptable” action that “belittles the value of free press rights” and “corrodes … our independence from government control.” Huh?
As the FBI director points out, deception is a tool of law enforcement, and the only person interacting with the fake AP reporter or reading the fake AP story was a suspect threatening the bombing of a school.
Journalists have plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the Justice Department. But they should save their outrage for genuine violations of the public trust.