I-Team: FBI's undercover tactics raise questions

LAS VEGAS - Terms like "fake news," and "liberal media" only add to the overall distrust of the media. Now, some say a move by the FBI -- when agents went undercover as documentary filmmakers -- isn't helping matters.

The I-Team has been following the high-profile case against six men charged in connection with the "Bundy standoff."

Critics of the FBI's practice, going undercover as journalists, say the waters are muddied now.

The documentary:  America Reloaded.

The company, Longbow Productions did separate sit down interviews with three men who had been at the armed standoff in Bunkerville in April of 2014. But it turns out, the crew was actually undercover FBI gathering information.

"I would rather see them take somebody into custody and talk to them after having them mirandized," said attorney Jess Marchese.

He is representing Eric Parker, one of six men currently on trial. He's accused of pointing weapons at law enforcement officers, intimidating them, conspiring with cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and others, as well as other charges. If convicted, he could go to prison for life.

All six men were at the armed standoff with weapons as rancher Cliven Bundy led a face off against the federal government after the Bureau of Land Management collected his cattle.

It was court ordered after Bundy refused to pay grazing fees for years. Protestors, like the defendants, showed up and the BLM released the cattle but an investigation continued. Part of that was the work of Longbow Productions.

"It's a really dangerous policy to set," said Amy Rose, ACLU Nevada.

She's the legal director for the ACLU.

"It's just a really horrible policy. I think for the FBI or any law enforcement agent to use the media in that way for their own purposes."

In 2015, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Associated Press filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for refusing the release information about the FBI going undercover as the media. In 2016, the Office of the Inspector General released a review calling an updated policy an improvement.

It prohibits the FBI from going undercover as the media unless that's authorized as an undercover operation.
The bottom line, it's allowed if a higher up approves it.

The I-Team asked Nevada's top FBI guy about the policy at a media meet and greet Tuesday.

"We do use different techniques. We do so legally and responsibly. That's about all I'm going to say about it," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse.

The I-Team found a website for Longbow Productions and called to ask if it was part of the FBI's operation.
The response: I don't know - I just answer the phone.

As for the trial going on now, Marchese says the fake interview may actually help his client since Parker said he was scared and didn't want violence at the standoff although he was seen pointing his weapon.

Other defense attorneys have also argued the questions seemed scripted and leading during that fake interview.

"It doesn't sit well with a lot of people, in general, whether it be the general public or whether it be the defendants," Marchese said.

It was revealed in court, Gregory Burleson, the defendant who made the most explosive statements during the fake interview, had been an FBI informant.

According to what the I-Team has heard so far in court, his work as an informant was unrelated to the current case but the FBI will not reveal more.