FBI agents have used photos of young female support staff employees posing as children or sex workers to lure sexual predators on social media websites, Department of Justice inspectors say.
A report by the department’s Office of the Inspector General submitted late last week found that one agent used photos of FBI support employees who were not certified as undercover agents without getting consent from their superiors.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported that the agent “said he was ‘fishing’ on social media sites but not recording which sites he used.
“The (agent) did not inform the support staff employees’ supervisors that the employees were involved in (undercover) operations, and the (agent) advised the support staff employees who provided photographs to not tell anyone, including their supervisors.”
Horowitz said that while employees’ faces were blurred and they were clothed in the photos, they were nevertheless potentially put in danger.
“The FBI had no documentation or information regarding whether the photographs still appear on the websites or how long the photographs appeared on the websites, during which time the photographs could have been — and potentially could still be — downloaded, copied, or further disseminated,” the report said.
The Inspector General said the conduct “poses potential adverse consequences for non-(agent) employees participating in (undercover) operations, including potentially placing them in danger of becoming the victims of criminal offenses.”
Horowitz demanded the FBI create a policy governing the use of such employees in undercover operations in which their written consent would be required and the operations be carefully documented and monitored.
FBI Executive Assistant Director Brian Turner wrote in response that the agent’s conduct is being reviewed by the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility and promised that new guidelines will be developed “in the coming weeks.”
“Upon publication, the FBI will also ensure that the FBI personnel who engage in (undercover) operations are aware of the new guidelines and trained on the requirements,” Turner wrote.