How far can – and should – law enforcement go to investigate crime? There is no easy answer, but recently stories have emerged which raise questions about the use of deception by federal law enforcement agencies.
NPR reported last week that in Las Vegas, FBI agents allegedly disrupted internet service to a home, then masqueraded as technicians to gain access to the home. While in the home, they allegedly gained sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant.
Also last week, The Seattle Times reported that FBI agents created a fake news story – attributed to the AP – and posted it to a juvenile suspect’s MySpace page. When the suspected clicked the link, law-enforcement software was downloaded to his computer, which reported his location and IP address to agents.
Earlier in the month, The Washington Post reported that a DEA agent admitted to posing as a defendant and using photos from her cell phone to create a Facebook account in her name. The apparent purpose of the account was to identify other suspects in a drug ring. The woman has filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York.
All of these cases are presently pending in different jurisdictions and different stages of litigation. In the meantime, it bears remembering that it is our collective responsibility to hold law enforcement accountable. We, the people, though our elected officials, judges, and public outcry, have a huge role in determining what is and is not acceptable when it comes to law enforcement tactics.
Most importantly, these cases underscore the need for experienced, thorough defense representation. The deception in the Las Vegas case was apparently only uncovered due to one stray statement on an FBI recording – a statement which could easily have been missed in a cursory review of the file.