FBI Opens Internal Investigation Into One Of Its Own Twitter Accounts Because Good Lord This Year Is So Stupid

from the great-year-for-comas dept

There's nothing the FBI loves more than an investigation. It's right in the name. The on-again, off-again inspection of Hillary Clinton's emails have given director James Comey a chance to really strut his stuff. It's embarrassing stuff -- stuff his underlings wish he'd stop strutting, but there it is. The White House itself actually weighed in on Comey's latest blurt (which was followed shortly thereafter by tons of controlled leaking) and basically called him a loudmouth.

Because this election season couldn't get any weirder, a long-dormant FBI Twitter bot suddenly came to life and began spewing links to FBI documents about tangentially-related investigations -- like FBI files on the Clinton Foundation. This only raised more questions about the FBI's political leanings. Sure, the FBI has won over parties in both camps thanks to its investigation of Hillary Clinton, but it has infuriatingly chosen to periodically invert the narrative, leaving both parties unsure of how to feel about their new partner in electioneering.

The unexpected burst of activity suggested the FBI was again meddling with the electoral process. Not actually news, of course. The documents had been there all along, but the Twitterbot had failed to inform the public in a timely fashion. It was suppposed to send out a tweet any time the agency dumped something into its FOIA "reading room," but had failed to do so for months.

It was enough to suggest nefarious intent. Because the FBI is nothing if not well-funded, it will be taking a much closer look at its malfunctioning Twitter account. (via Slashdot)

Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the findings will be referred back to the the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”

There's a reason for this investigation -- one that will likely find nothing more damning than coding hiccups.

Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

Odd. It would appear James Comey is unfamiliar with these laws and policies. The social media bot only does what it's told to do. And no one, apparently, is able to tell Comey what to do. Or not to do. But it's the pile of code that will be facing greater scrutiny than James "Rogue One" Comey.

A statement and a preliminary conclusion have already made their appearance. The statement issued by the FBI says that the Twitterbot, like everything else the FBI does (including unlawful deployment of malware), was totally lawful in its spectacularly-timed tweetstorm.

"Per the standard procedure for FOIA, these materials became available for release and were posted automatically and electronically to the FBI’s public reading room in accordance with the law and established procedures,” the FBI said in a statement.

A more innocuous explanation for the ill-timed tweeting is this one:

An FBI official told Motherboard that the FBI Records Vault Twitter account had been dormant for more than a year because of a bug in the FBI.gov content management system (CMS) that links the website where the documents are posted and the social media account. On Sunday, according to the official, the FBI’s IT team pushed a patch to the CMS and fixed the bug, causing the flood of tweets, which had been scheduled over the last few months, to go out on October 30.

Whatever the explanation is, the FBI is pretty much a walking catastrophe at this point -- at least as far as maintaining distance from the electoral process is concerned.

Filed Under: fbi, foia, leaks, politics, releases, social media


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 7:24am

    Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

    Odd. It would appear James Comey is unfamiliar with these laws and policies.

    Last I heard, Comey was perfectly content to let status quo ante sit as it was, until things got out of his hands. Over 100 agents were so disgusted by the whole "yeah, she totally broke the law but no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her for totally breaking the law" stunt that they threatened to resign en masse unless he actually did his job, so he reopened the investigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 8:45am

    Almost as odd as a person under investigation having a secret meeting with the person that would be responsible for prosecuting him.

    No political slant here people--move along.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:47am

      Re:

      What secret meeting? If everybody knows about it, it's not a secret.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re:

        It was a secret meeting. If it wasn't, we'd have transcripts or recordings of it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The content of the meeting was a secret. (Which, yes, was a foolish move at best and actual conspiracy at worst.) The meeting itself was not a secret.

          I'm inclined to believe that if any actual conspiracy had occurred, both parties would have been far more competent about it, and gone to some effort not to be discovered meeting. Hanlon's razor.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael H., 4 Nov 2016 @ 8:49am

    For a blog that is supposedly dedicated to fair and equal enforcement of the law, Techdirt still seems to have a few blindspots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:12am

      Re:

      Yes, we should not investigate criminal behavior by a presidential candidate until they become president and then have the power to remove the head of the FBI, DOJ and any other department that gets in the way. This is why Wikileaks is so important.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:50am

      Re:

      Fair and equal enforcement of the law means law enforcement agencies aren't supposed to put their thumb on the scale of an election. If Comey had written some vague, information-free letter that he might have some pertinent information on an investigation into Trump, maybe, we're not sure yet, a week and a half before the election, it would be just as outrageous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 11:42am

      Re:

      While USA isn't known for "innocent untill proven guilty" taking precedense, it would be much more appropriate to release the results of an investigation or referral to the judicial system.

      Since the time during investigations are closed for the public, it is not much different from how any other "controlled democracy" acts... We are reaching towards the Kafka methods in "The Trial".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CrushU (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:17am

    Mountains out of Mole-hills

    An FBI official told Motherboard that the FBI Records Vault Twitter account had been dormant for more than a year because of a bug in the FBI.gov content management system (CMS) that links the website where the documents are posted and the social media account. On Sunday, according to the official, the FBI’s IT team pushed a patch to the CMS and fixed the bug, causing the flood of tweets, which had been scheduled over the last few months, to go out on October 30.

    This is a perfectly reasonable explanation and serves to highlight the troubles of the modern IT wo--

    Whatever the explanation is, the FBI is pretty much a walking catastrophe at this point -- at least as far as maintaining distance from the electoral process is concerned.

    What. No. NO. This is a valid explanation. There was a bug in the CMS. IT fixed it. You can't possibly claim to start pointing fingers at IT people for doing their jobs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:56am

      Re: Mountains out of Mole-hills

      You can't possibly claim to start pointing fingers at IT people for doing their jobs.

      Their job is, explicitly, not to influence elections. Ergo, they did not do their jobs.

      You know what I do when I'm working on something and I see that someone has told me to do something that violates professional ethics (such as set up an unencrypted e-mail form that prompts users for a credit card number or SSN)? I tell my supervisor.

      If the IT guys didn't look at what was waiting in the queue before they fixed the CMS, then they didn't do their job.

      If the IT guys did look at what was waiting in the queue before they fixed the CMS, and did it anyway, they didn't do their job.

      If the IT guys looked at what was waiting in the queue before they fixed the CMS, reported it to a supervisor, and expressed concern about it, and then the supervisor said publish it anyway, then I'm a lot more sympathetic to the IT guys and a lot less sympathetic to the supervisor. But if it were me and my supervisor told me to do something unethical, I'd appeal it all the way up the chain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re: Mountains out of Mole-hills

        IT's job isn't to look at the stuff in the queue that should have gone out months ago and determine if now would be a bad time to release it. IT's job is to fix the bug that's caused the queue to back up, so the stuff that's waiting gets sent out like it should have been sent months ago.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Mountains out of Mole-hills

          IT's job isn't to look at the stuff in the queue that should have gone out months ago and determine if now would be a bad time to release it.

          It is if they're working for a government organization where the release of certain information at certain times is a violation of professional ethics (and possibly laws).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            CrushU (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 1:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mountains out of Mole-hills

            The information was already released. The Twitter bot just pointed out where it was. That it happened to be tangentially related is unfortunate and entirely benign.

            Even better, the Twitter bot was supposed to have already sent this information out. So if anything, the 'violation of professional ethics (and possibly laws)' is on anyone who didn't initially release it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 8:36pm

        Re: Re: Mountains out of Mole-hills

        The FBI is not a small business. They have IT guys who patch CMS and they have people who schedule posts to twitter. If they were the same IT guys, the schedulers would have fixed the issue a long time ago. Obviously the FBI is compartmentalized even within IT.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    noitall, 4 Nov 2016 @ 9:44am

    fbi

    lets see now, um, um, the FBI, investigating the FBI? Oh man, this is a tuff one! I wonder how it will turn out? Daaaaaa!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 10:07am

    As an outsider (candaian) looking in I have to say I agree with both sides, that is 'the other guys candidate sucks'.
    It looks like who ever gets in you guys (americans) are screwed. What I can't understand is why you are not more upset about the candidates that have been handed or forced on you (depending on your take).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      I'd say most people are pretty upset.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      Many of us are very, VERY, upset about both candidates. Most of the upset people, however, are conservatives who are stuck with Donald Trump. Democrats have the candidate they wanted and will defend her no matter what happens. There is a large base of people who are using a lesser of two evils argument to vote for Trump. Others cannot stomach voting for either candidate (myself included) and are unsure of what to do come election day.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 6 Nov 2016 @ 4:20am

        Re: Re:

        Hillary Clinton is not the candidate I wanted.

        Prior to the rise of Donald Trump, I had committed myself to voting third-party even if it meant the election of the Republican candidate (which it wouldn't, I'm in a heavy blue state).

        In the primaries, I supported Bernie Sanders.

        Donald Trump had managed the difficult feat of getting me to *look forward to* voting for Hillary Clinton.

        After the last week or so, I'm no longer looking forward to that, but she's still by far the better choice than the catastrophe that would be a Trump presidency.

        A Hillary Clinton presidency would almost certainly not be good. However, it would also almost certainly not be catastrophic; at worst, it would be some approximation of "more of the same".

        A Trump presidency *might* do *some* good things, as part of a general sort of iconoclasm. It would also almost certainly do *many* *bad* things, to the point where I'm not sure we'd recognize our country afterwards.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 10:19am

    I'm not going to get in the political aspect of this because this isn't the right place for it. Speaking for myself I wan't whatever dirt to come out BEFORE the election if there is real dirt rather than after. If they have real dirt on the candidate I happen to be voting for then please bring it as well. What pisses me off is when so called "non-partisan" sites like this run a story that is insinuating that Comey did what he did for political reasons. While this may later come out to be true, NOBODY knows what was on that laptop so to say it right now without knowing is definitely partisan. Le the man do his damn job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:37pm

      Re:

      I'm not going to get in the political aspect of this because this isn't the right place for it. Speaking for myself I wan't whatever dirt to come out BEFORE the election if there is real dirt rather than after.

      Which would be relevant if we were talking about the release of any actual dirt, instead of just vague suggestions that there may, possibly, be some information that may, at some indeterminate time in the future, potentially turn out to involve dirt, maybe.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tynkir (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 11:35am

    1. It appears many comments don't know much about James Comey's longstanding bais against the Clintons. That he, a lawyer, was selected by republicans to office, and has had years and millions of dollars in funding to investigate... and has been unable to find Hillary guilty of anything. He's had every opportunity to do so and has been unsuccessful.

    2. The article isn't blaming IT, it's blaming the lack of FBI processes in reviewing what they publish in these situations, the FBI is a public figure in a spotlight, any release of information should be reviewed, there should be a review process when things like this occur as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 11:45am

    Wait!

    Russia hacked into the FBI so they could patch the CMS system so FOIA process would work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2016 @ 4:18am

    Once again, Tim insinuates, but fails to explain exactly what he means. Above, he suggests multiple times that the FBI is somehow "manipulating" the electoral process. How exactly are the doing THAT Tim? Just because they've revealed some information that doesn't exactly make Hillary come out smelling like a rose (face it, she smells like shit), how does that interfere with the electoral process? To do the reverse (sit on said information) would make her look good. According to your phuck-tarded logic - that TOO would "interfere" with the electoral process, and if that's the case, all they actually CAN do is release information regardless of the election, and regardless of who your pet candidate is Tim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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