When the story broke about Project Veritas employees and founder James O’Keefe being raided by the FBI Saturday morning in a purported search for Ashley Biden’s diary, our first question was, “Did they take the electronics?”
Sure enough, the diary search seems to have been a pretext, at least in part, to take the electronics.
The FBI found privileged communications between Project Veritas and their attorney from several years ago, with PV asking for legal opinions regarding their journalistic activities. It seems the Bureau leaked these to THE NEW YORK TIMES, which apparently is illegal –- yes, even when the FBI does it, but since when have they cared? –- and the NYT reported on it, which as far as we know also is illegal.
Oh, and it gets shadier. The NYT happens to be in litigation with Project Veritas or a story they did in 2020 about a PV video alleging voter fraud in Minnesota. Wonder if they saw any attorney-client communications about that?
Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti wrote a piece for Thursday’s NYT called “Project Veritas and the Line Between Journalism and Political Spying,” which they say shows “how the conservative group worked with lawyers to gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices could go before running afoul of federal laws.”
So, let me get this straight. Reporters discuss with their attorneys on how to get information for their stories without breaking the law. Stop the presses!!
Ironically, the one who might have run afoul of the law is THE NEW YORK TIMES, as it has written about communications covered by attorney-client privilege. The materials are a series of memos written several years ago by Project Veritas attorney Benjamin Barr about how to do things such as mask identity and infiltrate groups without breaking federal law. This is actually the style of undercover reporting that investigative journalists used to do all the time; you know this if you watched 60 MINUTES and other prime time news shows in their long-ago heyday.
“The documents give new insight into the workings of the group,” the NYT story says, “at a time when it faces potential legal peril in the diary investigation –- and has signaled that its defense will rely in part on casting itself as a journalistic organization protected by the First Amendment.”
Note to the NYT: Project Veritas is a journalistic organization protected by the First Amendment.
And being a journalistic organization, they chose not to do a story on Ashley Biden’s diary because they couldn’t confirm it was hers. NATIONAL FILE published 112 pages of it, in October 2020, but Project Veritas left it alone.
“Most news organizations consult regularly with lawyers,” the NYT story says, “but some of Project Veritas’ questions for its legal team demonstrate an interest in using tactics that test the boundaries of legality and are outside of mainstream reporting techniques.”
So, whatever they thought they might need to do to get a story, they were running by their attorneys first to make sure it was LEGAL and didn’t interfere with national security. Hey, NYT (and FBI), there is nothing wrong with “demonstrating an interest.” And according to James O’Keefe and his lawyer Paul Calli, who appeared in an interview with Sean Hannity, they DID nothing wrong. This would imply denial of one of the allegations in the search warrant, transporting stolen goods [the diary] across state lines.
“Mr. O’Keefe likes to describe himself as a crusading journalist exposing wrongdoing, targeting liberal groups and Democrat politicians,” says the NYT.
Note to the NYT: That’s exactly what O'Keefe is. And thank God for that, as the mainstream media aren’t interested in doing the job. They show a remarkable lack of curiosity, especially when it comes to wrongdoings within their own party.
In their story, Goldman and Mazzetti admit that they passed along some of these Project Veritas memos to Bill Grueskin, a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, formerly with the WALL STREET JOURNAL and BLOOMBERG NEWS. He said that these memos provided “pretty good advice” but that “the undercover nature of Project Veritas’ work was more problematic.”
Did this expert think it might be “problematic” that he was reading privileged attorney-client legal advice?
“Every newsroom I’ve ever worked in has basically said undercover journalism was unacceptable,” Grueskin said. On the contrary, we used to see a lot of this type of sting, with shaky undercover cameras inside purses and such. That was long before cameras were virtually everywhere, as they are now. Why do I get the feeling that the real objection to Project Veritas is not their tactics but their targets?
Project Veritas issued a statement saying it “stands behind these legal memos and is proud of the exhaustive work it does to ensure each of its journalism investigations complies with all applicable laws” and that their work “reflects Project Veritas’ dedication to the First Amendment, which protects the right to gather information, including about those in power.”
James O’Keefe got himself an outstanding attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, and she appeared on Tucker Carlson’s FOX NEWS show Thursday evening with a shocking story about how the FBI conducted their raid. She said they showed up at his door with “a battering ram,” “threw him out into the hallway,” put him “in handcuffs” and “took his phones.”
She said he had a lot of privileged information on his phones, including communication with “by my count, four dozen different lawyers over the years.” She can’t say with certainty how these NYT reporters got the information, but “can say that they got it in a way that is illegal and unethical.
She described this as a situation in which either the U.S. Attorney’s office or the FBI was tipping off the NYT to each of the raids on Project Veritas’ current and former employees. “We know that because minutes after these raids occurred, we got calls from THE NEW YORK TIMES,” she said. She described the story they ran as “a hit piece.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything this low from THE NEW YORK TIMES before, to publish people’s private legal communications,” she said. She then said what we'd concluded independently: “All it proves is that Project Veritas is an honest and thoughtful journalistic organization that sought legal advice” before running with their stories. We would add that perhaps THE NEW YORK TIMES could do a better job of that.
Finally, the FBI may have found a treasure trove of private stuff on those phones besides the attorney-client material. Dhillon said there was confidential source information, “including sources in the Biden administration and in corporate America.” There was also donor information, which is protected by the First Amendment. So why did the FBI take those phones? Still think all they were after was that diary?
On Thursday, Project Veritas was able to get a federal judge to order the FBI and the Southern District of New York to stop looking at the phones. But that sure sounds like locking the barn door after the horse is gone.