United States

FBI agent used photos of female office staff as bait in sex trafficking sting -report

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WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - An FBI agent faces potential disciplinary measures after an investigation by the Justice Department's internal watchdog revealed he allegedly asked a female support staffer to provide "provocative" photos of herself that he used as bait in an undercover sex-trafficking operation.

In a memo on Monday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the investigation led his office to discover that the agent's conduct was not an isolated incident, and there were also other cases in which agents have asked female office staff to pose as minor children or sex workers in undercover operations.

While their faces were blurred and they remained clothed, Horowitz said the staff whose photos were used were not certified undercover or covert employees.

The agent under investigation never obtained written consent from the employees, and he advised them "not tell anyone, including their supervisors, about the UC [undercover] operations."

"This conduct poses potential adverse consequences" for non-undercover certified staff, Horowitz said, noting that posting their photos online could place them "in danger of becoming the victims of criminal offenses."

Horowitz said the FBI had no policy in place concerning the use of photos of non-certified undercover staff in undercover operations. He urged the FBI to establish one and to make sure agents obtain written consent from employees who appear in photographs for undercover operations.

Brian Turner, an executive assistant director at the FBI, responded in a July 27 memo, saying the bureau will "evaluate existing policy and determine which policies require adjustment."

He said the findings concerning the special agent's conduct would be adjudicated by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The findings followa scathing inspector general report issued last month, which found that the FBI bureau had botched its investigation into sex abuse allegations against disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has said it intends to conduct an oversight hearing into the FBI's failings in the Nassar case.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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