FBI vowed to change practices after Justice Department Inspector General raised concerns about agents’ use of photos of female support staff in sex trafficking investigations and “potentially putting them at risk of becoming victims of criminal offenses”.
In a report released Monday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz found there was no FBI policy requiring special agents to “obtain written informed consent” from support personnel when using their photos as bait in line. The FBI accepted Horowitz’s recommendations that a formal policy be put in place.
The Inspector General discovered the absence of a policy during the investigation of a special agent who “allegedly was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with an employee of FBI support staff” which included the agent asking the employee to “provide her with provocative photos of herself for UC Online.” operations (undercover) “.
“During our investigation, the OIG learned that SAs sometimes used photographs of young support workers to pose as underage children or sex workers to attract sexual predators to various social media websites,” indicates Horowitz’s report.
Support staff “are not certified undercover employees or certified online secret workers,” Horowitz noted. The report does not specify the extent of the practice and does not accuse the agents of having used the photographs against the will of the employees or without their knowledge.
“In the cases we looked at as part of the OIG’s investigation, the faces of the employees were blurred and the employees were dressed,” the report says. “However, the SA that was the subject of the OIG’s investigation did not document which employees were used, did not obtain written consent from the employees, did not document the websites on which the employees were used. photographs were posted, or documented when the photographs were posted. The SA said he “fished” on social media sites, but did not register the sites he was using. “
Further, the report found that “the FBI had no documentation or information as to whether the photographs still appear on websites or how long the photographs appeared on websites, during which time the photographs could have been – and could still be – uploaded, The OIG believes that this conduct has potential negative consequences “for non-infiltrator employees,” including potentially putting them at risk of becoming victims of criminal offenses. “
In a response letter, the FBI said it “fully accepts” Horowitz’s recommendations and will implement changes to ensure the guidelines are in place. If such photos are used in the future, the FBI has said it will have policies in place to ensure that staff members and their supervisors are formally informed and that the photos are tracked and used “in an appropriate manner. safe and appropriate “.