The Department of Justice executed an early-morning raid last week on journalist James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, a publication known for hidden-camera sting operations and whistleblower-based reports. The raid was in response to an investigation into the alleged theft of a diary belonging to Biden’s daughter Ashley, and raised concerns about the Biden administration adhering to the constitutional right to a free press.
According to O’Keefe, the diary was given to Project Veritas by an anonymous source, who claimed it was obtained legally. When Project Veritas couldn’t confirm its authenticity, O’Keefe decided not to publish any of its contents and gave the document to law enforcement.
Nearly one year since turning the diary over to police, Biden’s FBI raided O’Keefe’s home in Westchester County, New York, at 6 a.m. on November 6. Pursuant to a court order, the feds seized O’Keefe’s cell phones while he stood handcuffed in his underwear in a hallway surrounded by almost a dozen agents.
“I woke up to a pre-dawn raid banging on my door. I went to the door to answer the door and there were ten FBI agents with a battering ram [and] white blinding lights. They turned me around, handcuffed me, and threw me against the hallway. I was partially clothed in front of my neighbors. They confiscated my phone. They raided my apartment,” O’Keefe told Fox News host Sean Hannity last week. “On my phone were many of my reporters notes. A lot of my sources unrelated to this story. And a lot of confidential donor information to our news organization.”
Days after the FBI raid on O’Keefe’s private residence, the New York Times published an article claiming to have obtained “internal documents” of the Project Veritas founder, including communications with the organization’s lawyer. The article promped concerns that federal law enforcement leaked the contents of O’Keefe’s phone to the Times.
“The FBI raided Project Veritas on a pretext and is now leaking their privileged communications to the New York Times,” tweeted lawyer Will Chamberlain. “This is a scandal.”
“These are classic privileged communications. [Project Veritas] asked for a legal opinion on potential journalistic activities, that opinion is a privileged communication. No idea what [Adam Goldman of the New York Times] was thinking here,” Chamberlain continued in a separate tweet. “He should be subpoenaed tomorrow and forced to reveal his criminal source.”
Chamberlain also noted that Project Veritas “is currently in litigation with the New York Times” over an unrelated issue, concluding that the times had created “a massive, massive scandal.”
After the raid, O’Keefe’s lawyers argued to a federal judge that he was denied legal protections provided to journalists.
“The Department of Justice’s use of a search warrant to seize a reporter’s notes and work product violates decades of established Supreme Court precedent,” O’Keefe lawyer Paul Calli wrote to prosecutors.
U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres issued an order requiring prosecutors to confirm they have “paused [their] extraction and review of the contents” of O’Keefe’s cell phones.
In a letter to O’Keefe’s lawyers that was obtained by Politico, prosecutors claimed they have “complied with all applicable regulations and policies regarding potential members of the news media in the course of this investigation, including with respect to the search warrant at issue.”
“This is just beyond belief,” said University of Minnesota law professor Jane Kirtley, a former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “I’m not a big fan of Project Veritas, but this is just over the top. I hope they get a serious reprimand from the court because I think this is just wrong.”
“This is really a test in this administration of whether they’re going to put their money where their mouth is,” Kirtley added. “If they’re trying to be seen as great champions of press freedom, this is a pretty bad way to start.”