The Justice Department’s strong legal methods against a conservative firebrand (known for its secret video operations) have cast additional doubt on the Biden government’s efforts to position itself as a committed defender of press freedom.
This is Gross Overreach
Several First Amendment activists are concerned authorities seem to have exercised control over Justice Department media regulations and a federal law protecting reporters.
These concerns come amid an early-morning FBI raid on Project Veritas creator James O’Keefe and other searches on some of his collaborators last weekend.
The pending court battle is heightened by the fact it originates from a politically contentious inquiry into the attempted fraud of President Biden’s daughter, Ashley, after the supposed theft of her diary.
The paper ended up in the hands of O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas. The group never posted anything about her diary and ultimately handed it over to the cops.
FBI raid on home of Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe casts serious doubt on Biden Administration's commitment to free speech and a free press. https://t.co/3GwyLKIrBG
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) November 14, 2021
Following an FBI probe, O’Keefe’s house in Westchester County, N.Y. was raided by the FBI at 6 a.m. this Saturday to take his mobile phones, in accordance with a court order.
O’Keefe claims he was chained in his underpants in a hallway, while over a dozen officers looked for the cellphones, one of whom was using a battering ram.
The highly charged incident is shaping up to be a litmus test for Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s pledges to demonstrate profound appreciation for the media. It will also test their promise to move away from what they called Trump’s more nasty demeanor.
“This is just unbelievable,” said Jane Kirtley, a former director of the Journalists Committee for Freedom of Press and a legal professor at the University of Minnesota.
“I’m not a supporter of Project Veritas, but this is ridiculous. I hope the court issues a severe censure because I believe this is just unacceptable.”
The Fight Back is Only Just Beginning
O’Keefe’s attorneys protested to a judicial officer this week, saying the raid deprived O’Keefe of the same legal rights as journalists.
BREAKING! The federal court has just ordered the DOJ to STOP extracting data from our client, journalist James O’Keefe’s phone, and ordered a hearing. Counsel for Project Veritas asked the court to do this yesterday! pic.twitter.com/nBrmf4myuj
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) November 11, 2021
“Using a warrant by the Department of Justice to collect a reporter’s notebooks and work papers contradicts generations of established Supreme Court precedent,” O’Keefe lawyer Paul Calli wrote to authorities.
O’Keefe’s lawyers are asking the court to establish a special investigator to oversee the examination of the data on his cellphones; they claim the data includes sensitive information regarding private sources, as well as protected communications with Project Veritas’ lawyers.
This method is rare, but it has been employed in past years to sort through data collected in government investigations.
Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York issued a one-page ruling on Thursday, giving the prosecution one day to confirm they have “suspended [their] extraction and analysis of the data” of O’Keefe’s mobile phones.
President Barack Obama’s appointment, Torres, has yet to decide on O’Keefe’s application for a hearing officer, who is normally a retired judge.