FBI agents used provocative photos of young female office workers to lure suspected predators into child trafficking investigations, an internal Justice Department review found.
The investigation by the Inspector General of Justice Michael Horowitz focused on an unidentified FBI agent who posted the photos on social media sites without obtaining approval from staff supervisors or documenting where the pictures were shown.
Although the staff were clothed and their faces were blurred in the pictures, the Inspector General noted that the practice was largely unsupervised and “potentially put (staff) at risk of becoming victims”.
The inspector general found that the staff were not certified for covert work and that the agent had not obtained written consent from the staff whose photos were being used.
“The (agent) said he ‘fished’ on social media sites but did not record which sites he used,” the report said. “The (agent) did not inform the supervisors of the support staff that the staff were involved in (covert) operations, and the (agent) advised the support staff who provided photos not to tell anyone, including their supervisors. “
According to the report, neither the agent nor his manager were able to document “how the photos were obtained or used”.
“Also, the FBI had no records or information as to whether the photos were still on the websites or how long the photos had been on the websites, during which time the photos could have been downloaded, copied, or redistributed – and possibly could be.” the report found.
Brian Turner, assistant director of the FBI, said in a response attached to the report that the agent’s conduct is under review by the FBI’s bureau of professional responsibility.
Turner also said that existing guidelines are also being evaluated to determine what “adjustments” or “new language to establish the necessary guidelines” are needed.
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