Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents used “provocative” photos of female office staff without formal authorization as part of undercover sex trafficking operations, the Justice Department said in a report.
In its investigation, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that FBI agents “sometimes used photographs of young female support staff employees to pose as minor children or sex workers to entice sexual predators on various social media websites.”
The OIG began the investigation due to allegations of an FBI agent having an “inappropriate relationship” with a support staff employee, including requesting “provocative” photos of herself for online undercover operations.
Although the female support staff remained clothed and had blurred faces in the photos, the OIG noted that the staff were not certified for such roles.
According to FBI policy, support staff should only be used in undercover operations when it is “absolutely necessary” and it requires authorization from the special agent in charge.
The OIG also noted in the report that the FBI did not document which staff members were used, did not obtain written consent from them, and told them to not tell anyone.
The FBI also did not document the websites where they uploaded the photos, how long they appeared online, and if they are still posted on the websites, according to the OIG.
The OIG said that the FBI’s conduct potentially placed the female staff “in danger of becoming the victims of criminal offenses.”
In its conclusion, the OIG urged the FBI to establish a policy concerning the use of photos of employees for online undercover operations.
FBI said in response that they have accepted the investigation’s findings and that they will change policies, as well as implement new guidelines.
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