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FBI makes new rules for impersonating reporters after fake news malware sting

FBI makes new rules for impersonating reporters after fake news malware sting

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After a controversial sting operation conducted by the FBI, in which agents impersonated the Associated Press to plant malware on a suspect's computer, the agency says it has instituted new rules for when it can use the undercover practice.

Operation was first revealed in 2014

The news came in a report from the Department of Justice inspector general, which acts as an independent watchdog for the agency. The report said that the FBI decided in June of this year to create a new "interim" policy, which requires top brass to sign off on any undercover operation where FBI agents impersonate journalists. The inspector general's report called the new interim policy "a significant improvement."

The story of the case stretches back to 2007, when the FBI was investigating a series of bomb threats. To locate a suspect, the FBI claimed to the suspect that they were a journalist with the Associated Press, and then created a spyware-laden article. When the suspect clicked the article, their computer was infected, allowing the FBI to track the suspect.

The inspector general's report concludes "that FBI policies in 2007 did not expressly address the tactic of agents impersonating journalists," and that it ultimately "did not violate the undercover policies in place at the time." Still, reporters and editors have blasted the operation since it was revealed in 2014, saying it will have a chilling effect on the media. At the time, the AP said the operation "violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility."