Federal authorities confirm Project Veritas raids were part of theft investigation


James O’Keefe speaking at an event in West Palm Beach, Florida in December. 2018. (Gage Skidmore)

Federal prosecutors confirmed in a court filing Friday that FBI agents seized phones and electronics from people linked to conservative group Project Veritas as part of an investigation into the interstate transportation of stolen goods.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe previously said officers raided his home and the homes of two other people, as part of a criminal investigation into how the group received a newspaper that allegedly belonged to to President Joe Biden’s youngest daughter.

The activist group, best known for carrying out hidden camera bites that embarrassed the media, labor organizations and Democratic politicians, protested the raids as a violation of free speech rights and protections afforded to journalists.

He had asked a judge to appoint a comptroller, called a special master, to review the documents seized and ensure that prosecutors did not have the opportunity to view files related to confidential communications that Project Veritas staff had. with their lawyers.

New York federal prosecutors urged a judge to dismiss the request in a court file on Friday. In the file, they withheld key details about the case, but questioned whether Project Veritas was considered an independent journalism organization, and said that while it was, it had no point. importance.

“There is no First Amendment protection against theft and interstate transportation of stolen goods,” prosecutors wrote.

They did not specify in visible parts of the file what was stolen, or from whom, or whether investigators believed Project Veritas staff were directly involved in the thefts.

In a video released this month, O’Keefe said his group had “never engaged in illegal conduct.” He said there was “no doubt that Project Veritas acted appropriately at every step.”

In the video, he said his group was contacted late last year by “informants” who claimed to have a copy of Ashley Biden’s diary. Informants said the newspaper was “left in a room”.

O’Keefe said that in the end, Project Veritas did not release information from the newspaper because it could not confirm that it belonged to Ashley Biden. He said the diary was turned over to a law enforcement agency.

Some First Amendment groups had expressed concerns about the FBI raids as a potential violation of laws restricting when law enforcement officials can seize journalists’ documents. Biden’s Justice Department said it would not use a subpoena to obtain files from news organizations under most circumstances, although there is an exception when the journalists themselves are suspected of having broken the law.

In their case, federal prosecutors wrote that “there is considerable doubt as to whether the practices of Project Veritas or its employees in general could be entitled to the protection of a qualified journalistic privilege.”

“Project Veritas is not engaged in journalism under a traditional or accepted definition of the word. Its “reporting” consists almost entirely of publishing non-consensual and clandestine recordings made by illegal, unethical and / or dishonest means. “

O’Keefe defended the organization’s methods as part of a long tradition of journalists using hidden cameras or subterfuge to uncover wrongdoing.

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