The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation left the door open to the possibility that officers may falsely represent themselves as journalists in the course of an investigation, so long as it’s done with “significant supervision.”
Despite last month’s furor following revelations that an FBI agent had posed as an employee of the Associated Press as part of a sting operation, James Comey said he was not willing to swear off the use of such ploys in the future.
“I’m not willing to say ‘never’,” Comey told a press roundtable discussion on Tuesday, AP reported. “Just as I wouldn’t say that we would never pose as an educator or a doctor or, I don’t know, a rocket scientist.”
The response will certainly reverberate through AP, which was furious after Comey revealed in a letter to the New York Times that an FBI agent had posed as an AP journalist in 2007 during an investigation of a 15-year-old who was believed to be delivering bomb threats at a high school in Olympia, Washington.
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, called the FBI’s covert activities “unacceptable.”
“This latest revelation of how the FBI misappropriated the trusted name of the Associated Press doubles our concern and outrage, expressed earlier to Attorney General Eric Holder, about how the agency’s unacceptable tactics undermine AP and the vital distinction between the government and the press,”Carroll said in a statement.
She said such activities serve to diminish public trust in AP’s “legacy of objectivity, truth, accuracy and integrity.”
Comey remained ambiguous about the future of such activities, saying they require “significant supervision, if it’s going to be done.”
This is not the first time the news collective has experienced problems with government agencies.
On May 13, 2013, the Associated Press said telephone records for 20 of their journalists during a two-month period in 2012 had been subpoenaed by the Justice Department. The agency never provided an explanation for its demand.