FBI agents are accused of using photos of young staffers to lure sexual predators, authorities said.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General recently released a report accusing some FBI special agents of having women in the agency’s support staff — who were not certified to go undercover — pose as minors or sex workers in photos that were posted on social media to “entice sexual predators.”
The federal cases are unrelated to the recent uptick in arrests for sex trafficking in the Mahoning Valley which uses different methodology under the auspices of the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force.
The inspector general’s office says it learned of the operation during an investigation into a special agent who was accused of having an “inappropriate relationship” with a member of the support staff and asking her to provide “provocative pictures” of herself for online undercover operations.
In the photos reviewed by the watchdog group, the women were clothed and had their faces blurred out.
But, the group says, the agent who was under investigation did not get written consent from the women to use the photos or document when and where the photos were posted.
The agent and his supervisor told the inspector general’s office that they couldn’t provide documentation on how the pictures were “obtained or used,” the report says.
“Additionally, the FBI had no documentation or information regarding whether the photographs still appear on the websites or how long the photographs appeared on the websites, during which time the photographs could have been — and potentially could still be — downloaded, copied or further disseminated,” the report says.
The agent is also accused of telling the women who provided the pictures not to tell anyone about them. The report says he did not inform the women’s supervisors that they were involved in undercover operations.
The inspector general’s office said in the report that the practice could be dangerous and put the women involved at risk of “becoming the victims of criminal offenses.”
It recommended that the FBI craft a policy on using the photos of employees who are not certified to go undercover and create guidelines to ensure photos of FBI employees used for undercover operations are “used safely and appropriately.”
The FBI said in a statement to The Washington Post that it “fully accepted” the recommendations and that it would evaluate its policies and establish “new language” regarding the issues noted in the report.
It also said the findings about the special agent accused of having an “inappropriate relationship” with a staff member would be “promptly adjudicated,” according to The Washington Post.
An FBI official also told CNN that the agency would teach the new policies to staff members who are involved in undercover operations.