According to a court document found by Mashable, an FBI source used Facebook to communicate with Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi citizen in the U.S. on a student visa. Those interactions helped lead to his arrest Wednesday as Nafis tried to detonate a fake car bomb near the New York Federal Reserve. Nafis is believed to have connections with Al-Qaeda.
After making initial contact with Nafis, the FBI then used Facebook to communicate with him via an FBI confidential human source, or CHS. According to the court document:
During the period between July 6, 2012 and July 8, 2012, NAFIS, the CO-CONSPIRATOR and the CHS began to communicate via Facebook, an internet social-media website. During these communications, which were consensually recorded by the CHS, the three discussed certain Islamic legal rulings that advise that it is unlawful for a person who enters a country with a visa to wage jihad there. NAFIS stated that he had conferred with another individual in Bangladesh and was advised that he was not bound by such rulings. Accordingly, NAFIS indicated that he believed that he was free to continue with his plan to conduct a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Facebook and other social media sites have been used to communicate and catch suspected terrorists and other criminals in the past. The FBI has also been trying to gain more access to the sites.
In May, CNET disclosed that the FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a proposed law that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in back doors for government surveillance. The bureau's draft proposal would require that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
Most recently, the FBI has been renewing its request for new Internet surveillance laws, saying technological advances hinder surveillance and warning that companies should be required to build in back doors for police.