UNITED STATES: The US Department of Justice with the help of a watchdog report has found that FBI agents used photographs of the female office staff to lure sexual predators in an undercover sex-trafficking operation.
The findings were triggered by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog revealing that a male agent had an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker. The Justice department’s report says that that agent had requested “provocative” pictures of a female support staffer that he used in an online undercover operation.
In a memo on Monday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the investigation led to the discovery that the agent’s conduct was not an isolated incident, but there were also cases in which agents have asked the female office staff to pose as minor children or sex workers. While their faces were blurred and they remained clothes, the watchdog report noted that the photos could still potentially be copied or shared.
The agent under investigation never obtained written consent from the employees, and he advised them “not tell anyone, including their supervisors, about the UC [undercover] operations.”
The report said the support staff members were not certified to work undercover in this manner and that they should only be used in undercover operations with authorisation when it is “absolutely necessary”.
“This conduct poses potential adverse consequences” for non-undercover certified staff, Horowitz said, noting that posting their photos online could place them “in danger of becoming the victims of criminal offences.”
He urged the FBI to establish one and to make sure agents obtain written consent from employees who appear in photographs for undercover operations.
Brian Turner, an executive assistant director at the FBI, responded in a July 27 memo, saying the bureau will “evaluate existing policy and determine which policies require adjustment.”
He said the findings concerning the special agent’s conduct would be adjudicated by the Office of Professional Responsibility.
In response to the investigation, the FBI has said it accepted the findings. The agency will change its policies and implement new guidelines.