When You Phish it’s Illegal, When the FBI Phishes it’s Law Enforcement

The biggest problem I have with law enforcers is that they enjoy a level of privileges above the rest of us. Whereas it’s illegal for you or I to lie to a law enforcement agent they can lie to us with impunity. Heck, it’s considered part of their job. But that differences in legally permissible actions doesn’t stop there. Let’s consider the act of phishing, which is an attempt to acquire personal information from a target using a fake version of a legitimate website. It’s illegal in the United States. Unless, of course, if you have a badge:

The FBI in Seattle created a fake news story on a bogus Seattle Times web page to plant software in the computer of a suspect in a series of bomb threats to Lacey’s Timberline High School in 2007, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco.


The EFF documents reveal that the FBI dummied up a story with an Associated Press byline about the Thurston County bomb threats with an email link “in the style of The Seattle Times,” including details about subscriber and advertiser information.

The link was sent to the suspect’s MySpace account. When the suspect clicked on the link, the hidden FBI software sent his location and Internet Protocol information to the agents. A juvenile suspect was identified and arrested June 14.

Double standards are fun! The problem with allowing law enforcers to perform illegal actions without repercussions is that it sets a bad precedence. We’re witnessing these repercussions today as police officers use levels of force far and above what any sane person could justify, confiscate property of people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime, and hack into computers in order to obtain evidence, often against suspected hackers. Allowing law enforcers to act illegally also attracts people who want to perform illegal acts to the job, which is part of my theory of why we have so many violent individuals staffing many modern police departments.