AP sues US Justice Department over bogus news stories

Washington, Aug 29 (IANS/EFE) The Associated Press has sued the US Justice Department over the FBI’s failure to turn over public records related to its online impersonation of the media company during a 2007 sting operation.

The lawsuit was filed jointly by the AP and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) with the US district court for the district of Columbia.

In the suit, the AP said it discovered in October 2014 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had “masqueraded as a member of the news media — specifically, as the AP” to trick a suspect into downloading spyware to his computer.

It said the FBI, which had a search warrant, used the malware — known as a Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier, or CIPAV — to pinpoint the whereabouts of the 15-year-old suspect, who had allegedly made a series of bomb threats against a high school in Washington state.

In the sting operation, the FBI sent a private message to the suspect’s MySpace account with links to fake news stories.

When the suspect clicked on the stories, which bore the headlines “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department” and “Technology savvy student holds Timberline High School hostage,” he unwittingly downloaded the spyware.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says the FBI attributed those fake news stories to the media company.

The AP and the RCFP also are demanding that the Justice Department and the FBI document all instances, and under what circumstances, they have impersonated members of the news media to obtain information for their investigations.

The AP submitted a Freedom of Information Act request last year for documents related to the sting operation, which was discovered in documents obtained through a separate FOIA request by a different organisation.

The FBI has failed to provide those documents, the AP says.

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