The FBI created a fake version of the Seattle Times to catch a suspect in a series of bomb threats to a local school, the Times reported on Tuesday, and the newspaper’s editor is “outraged.”
According to documents published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FBI spoofed the Times website in 2007 with a fake Associated Press article about a series of bomb threats to Lacey’s Timberline High School. The agency then sent a link to the fake article to the suspect’s MySpace account.
When the suspect opened the link, FBI software buried in the link sent the person’s location and other information to the bureau’s agents. A suspect was eventually arrested, according to the Times.
“We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,” Times editor Kathy Best (pictured) said. “Not only does that cross a line, it erases it.”
An FBI spokesperson noted that the agency had not actually used “a real Seattle Times article, but material generated by the FBI in styles common in reporting and online media.”
Frank Montoya Jr., special agent-in-charge at the FBI’s Seattle bureau, also defended the tactic to the Times.
“We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting,” he said. “Use of that type of technique happens in very rare circumstances and only when there is sufficient reason to believe it could be successful in resolving a threat.”