Undercover FBI agents posed as documentary filmmakers in order to retrieve information to bolster a case against the Bundy family for their 2014 armed standoff against the United States Bureau of Land Management, The Intercept reports.
The fake film, titled America Reloaded, was attached to a similarly fake production company, the website of which is still available. Curiously, the FBI was not seeking details about an event that was being planned but instead one that was "widely documented" already. (Two members of the Bundy family, Ammon and Ryan, later coordinated the 2015 standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.)
"Even if the undercover team could coax interviewees into making comments more incriminating than the information already available in the public sphere, any evidence gleaned from the operation would require disclosing in court that the FBI had taken the controversial step of impersonating journalists," The Intercept writes.
The practice of government agents impersonating journalists is highly controversial. The Associated Press and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have called it a strategy that "endangers the media’s credibility and undermines its independence."
"I think the FBI used their resources to go after the people that are the least culpable," said Terrance Jackson, a lawyer for one of the interviewed Bundy supporters. "They used methods that need to be carefully scrutinized." Read The Intercept's full investigation here.