by Debra Heine
Someone from the Department of Justice appears to have tipped off the New York Times about recent raids on current and former employees of Project Veritas, and leaked privileged communications between founder James O’Keefe and his lawyers to the paper.
These potentially illegal actions come amid a Project Veritas defamation lawsuit against the NYTs that claims the paper’s coverage of a Veritas video was incorrect, defamatory and driven by resentment on the part of the newspaper’s reporters.
FBI agents raided the homes of O’Keefe, and several of his employees last week, in connection to the alleged theft of the diary of Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley.
The group considered publishing the sordid contents of the diary—which include Ashley Biden’s claims of being molested as a child, and taking inappropriate naked showers with her dad—but passed on the story because they were unable to verify the information. The conservative website the National File ended up publishing the entire contents of the diary in October of 2020.
Early Saturday morning, the FBI conducted a raid at O’Keefe’s New York home, seizing two of O’Keefe’s cell phones, among other items.
On Thursday, New York Times reporters Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti published a report based on leaked documents that show how Project Veritas consulted lawyers for legal opinions before using false identities in potential investigative projects—or as the biased reporters put it: “the conservative group worked with lawyers to gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices could go before running afoul of federal laws.”
Later that day, a federal judge ordered the DOJ to stop extracting data from the phones, granting a request from O’Keefe’s legal team. His attorney Harmeet Dhillon broke the news yesterday on Twitter:
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
In an interview on Fox News Thursday night, Dhillon called the NYT’s report as a “hit piece,” and suggested that the DOJ had leaked the confidential memos to the Times, which would potentially be a crime.
“I can’t say how the New York Times got this information, but they got it in a way that is illegal and unethical,” Dhillon told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
“We have a disturbing situation of the US Attorney’s office or the FBI tipping off the New York Times to each of the raids on Project Veritas current and former employees,” the attorney said.
“We know that because minutes after these raids occurred they got calls from the New York Times which was the only journalism outlet that knew about it. And they published this hit piece today, which is really despicable. 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 added.
“This is a scandal of epic proportions. Every journalist who is not worried about this should hang up their journalism card, and all First Amendment lawyers as well,” said Dhillon.
Dhillon said she was thankful that District Court Judge Analisa Torres halted the FBI’s alleged misconduct, calling it a “temporary victory.”
“We are gratified that the Department of Justice has been ordered to stop extracting and reviewing confidential and privileged information obtained in their raids of our reporters, including legal, donor, and confidential source communications,” she said. “The First Amendment won a temporary victory today, but Project Veritas has a long way to go to hold the DOJ and FBI accountable for their actions.”
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) November 12, 2021
The Times report quotes privileged and confidential legal advice that attorney Benjamin Barr gave Project Veritas about the laws regarding covert recordings and the use of false identities in various situations and jurisdictions. One example the paper cited involved a a potential sting of the FBI.
The documents show, for example, Project Veritas operatives’ concern that an operation launched in 2018 to secretly record employees at the F.B.I., Justice Department and other agencies in the hope of exposing bias against President Donald J. Trump might violate the Espionage Act — the law passed at the height of World War I that has typically been used to prosecute spies.
“Because intent is relevant — and broadly defined — ensuring PV journalists’ intent is narrow and lawful would be paramount in any operation,” the group’s media lawyer, Benjamin Barr, wrote in response to questions from the group about using the dating app Tinder to have its operatives meet government employees, potentially including some with national security clearances.
“If the New York Times has these memorandums – why wouldn’t it also have PV’s privileged communications that relate directly to PV’s lawsuit against the Times?” asked lawyer and co-publisher of Human Events Will Chamberlin on Twitter. “This is just a massive, massive scandal.”
If the New York Times has these memorandums – why wouldn’t it also have PV’s privileged communications that relate directly to PV’s lawsuit against the Times?
This is just a massive, massive scandal
— Will Chamberlain (@willchamberlain) November 12, 2021
Project Veritas on Thursday released a new video exposing former New York Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, who led the paper’s editorial department from May 2016 until his resignation in June 2020.
The video shows Bennet being deposed under oath in an ongoing lawsuit filed by former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin. who is suing The Times over an editorial that attempted to tie her Political Action Committee to the shooting of former U.S. Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords.
Bennett admitted during the deposition that “we did a very poor job” in vetting the editorial, which claimed “there was a causal link between political incitement and the shooting of Gabby Giffords.”
O’Keefe told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday that he woke up on Saturday to a terrifying pre-dawn raid with FBI agents banging on his door.
“I went to my door to answer the door and there were ten FBI agents with a battering ram, white blinding lights, they turned me around, handcuffed me and threw me against the hallway,” he told Fox News.
“They confiscated my phone. They raided my apartment. 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.”
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said the FBI raid was potentially a violation of the Privacy Protection Act.
“I’m sorry, but this is worrying from a press freedom perspective—unless & until DOJ releases evidence Protect Veritas was directly involved in the theft. Because if there is none, then the raids could very well be a violation of the Privacy Protection Act,” he tweeted.
O’Keefe told Hannity that he wouldn’t wish what he was going through on any journalist.
“If they can do this to me, if they can do it to any journalist,” he said.
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Debra Heine reports for American Greatness.
Photo “The New York Times” by Adam Jones CC BY 2.0.