FBI Director James Comey admitted this week that an agent impersonated an Associated Press employee during a 2007 criminal investigation, though he defended the agency's deceptive practices.

Comey wrote in a letter to The New York Times published online Thursday that an FBI agent "portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press."


The agent asked an unnamed person suspected of making bomb threats on a high school near Olympia, Wash., to review a bogus AP draft news article about the threats. The agent believed the suspect was a "narcissist," according to the letter.

After clicking the story, court-authorized tracking software was installed on the person's computer, leading to the arrest of a 15-year-old student.

"No actual story was published, and no one except the suspect interacted with the undercover 'A.P.' employee or saw the fake draft story. Only the suspect was fooled," Comey wrote.

While documents uncovered under the Freedom of Information Act recently revealed that the FBI lured a suspect with a fake AP news story, it was unknown that an agent impersonated an AP employee.

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll called the FBI tactics "unacceptable."

"This latest revelation of how the FBI misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press doubles our concern and outrage, expressed earlier to Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials We can't allow presidents and public opinion to further diminish the work of the press Democrats sue over North Carolina's congressional maps MORE, about how the agency's unacceptable tactics undermine AP and the vital distinction between the government and the press," Carroll said in a statement reported by the AP.

Twenty-five news organizations wrote to Comey on Friday to protest the practice, which they warned could undermine their integrity.

“The utilization of news media as a cover for delivery of electronic surveillance software is unacceptable,” wrote the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, McClatchy and other outlets.

Additionally, the news organizations claimed the FBI’s statements about the story have been “inconsistent,” with public documents that seem to show it was published online and also broke from protocol about undercover operations.

The news organizations said the FBI should release the full details of the case and update its policies so that there is more oversight whenever an investigation might interfere with the constitutional right to a free press.

Comey, for his part, wrote that the impersonation techniques were "proper and appropriate" under FBI and Justice Department guidelines in 2007, but now "would probably require higher level approvals."

His Thursday letter came in response to a Nov. 1 New York Times editorial that said the agency risked "opening the door to constitutional abuses on a much wider scale" with such sting operations.

Comey noted that the FBI does "use deception at times to catch crooks, but we are acting responsibly and legally."

— This story was updated at 10:36 a.m.