The news: Please take a quick moment to make sure you're really on Mic and not some cheap FBI copy, because it turns out the federal agency has a bit of a history of creating fake versions of real news websites.
Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show that in 2007, the FBI created a fake Seattle Times story in order to catch a bomb scare suspect.
How did this happen? The FBI planted a CIPAV (computer Internet protocol address verifier) on a suspect's computer to confirm his location. In order to do that, the FBI fabricated a malware-laden story about the bomb threats. They made it look like it was a Seattle Times article, even going so far as to include links to Seattle Times subscription and advertising information.
The FBI posted it on the suspect's MySpace page. He clicked on it and the CIPAV infected his computer, giving the FBI everything they needed.
Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU, derided the lunacy of the FBI's actions over Twitter:
The Seattle Times wasn't thrilled about their name being appropriated.
"We are outraged," editor Kathy Best told her own paper. "Not only does that cross a line, it erases it. Our reputation and our ability to do our job as a government watchdog are based on trust."
Best stated that by violating that trust, the FBI put the reputation of the Seattle Times "at peril."
The FBI defended their actions.
"Every effort we made in this investigation had the goal of preventing a tragic event," Frank Montoya Jr., the man in charge of the FBI in Seattle, told the Seattle Times. "We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting. Use of that type of technique happens in very rare circumstances."
This isn't the first time the FBI has been caught with their hand in the digital cookie jar. The FBI started to impersonate people on Facebook earlier this year. The legality of this action is still being disputed. Even worse: The FBI is also spying on people via their smartphone microphones.
These developments are troubling. The FBI's purpose is to investigate crimes and gather intelligence on criminal organizations within the United States, not masquerade as news publishers and individuals. Nor is their role to hack phones and listen to American citizens order takeout or discuss where they're going for happy hour.
It's a bit of a cliche, but this recent news proves that not only is Big Brother always watching, they're always trying to manipulate you in one way or another too.