By: Steven Goodman – Asst. Opinions Editor
It recently came to light that the FBI had created a fake news story to locate a suspect in a bombing threat in 2007 by planting software on the suspect’s computer. Whether it was a fake Seattle Times or The Associated Press article, however, seems to still be up for debate.
Naturally, a lot of people became very angry about this tactic used by the FBI and seemed to treat it, at least to me, as another version of the huge National Security Administration controversy that occurred about one year ago.
I really don’t think this event with the FBI is anywhere close to being on par with the NSA scandal.
The FBI did create a fake link in the form of a reputable news article with the intention of installing some software onto the suspected bomber’s computer to essentially find his location. However, it’s not as if the link was placed out on the open Internet for any person to stumble across and click on, which would have linked his or her computer to the FBI. Instead, a message was sent to the bombing suspect’s social media page so that only he would see and, hopefully, click on the link.
The faked news story was even about the bombing this individual was suspected of; in other words, it was completely tailored to one individual. I would find it hard to believe that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies never tried a tactic similar to this before, perhaps not identical to downloading software on someone’s computer but in a similar way to find a major suspect.
The one issue I do have with what the FBI did is that, from what I understand, the FBI simply did this without consultation. There was no contact with either news agency, and yet the FBI went ahead and used its name to catch a criminal. I’m not very concerned with the tactic used, but it does worry me that there was no communication between the FBI and the organization they used to locate a suspect.
I’m sure the reasoning behind this lack of communication is because the FBI wanted to keep the tactic a secret. After all, it would be useless to attempt to trick a suspect into downloading software if he or she knew about it. Nonetheless, I feel that there should have been some sort of communication bridge between the two entities.
Ultimately, I feel the reaction coming from the Seattle Times and The Associated Press is valid: the FBI used their names to, basically, trick an individual into installing spyware. It is the reaction of the general public and the ACLU that I don’t necessarily agree with.
The trick was isolated to the suspect alone: it was by no means available to the general public. On that note, if getting a suspect to download software to locate him or her works, I have no immediate issue with it. Only if the FBI communicates with the group it’s using.