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Monday, March 28, 2022
THE O’KEEFE PROJECT: SURVEILLANCE EDITION, TIMES STYLE
They are out to get James O’Keefe and Project Veritas in the case of Ashley Biden’s diary. “They” are the Biden administration and the national security establishment, for whom Michael Schmidt and Adam Goldman are serving as the public relations arm. Yesterday we learned that the FBI first undertook surveillance on Project Veritas in November 2020, within two weeks of the election. The surveillance began in earnest with a series of search warrants and nondisclosure orders served on Microsoft beginning the following January, around the time President Biden took office.
That is a pitiful headline. The Justice Department secretly seized the emails. Project Veritas didn’t just “say” so.
The story gets this right:
The disclosure underscored the scope and intensity of the legal battle surrounding the Justice Department’s investigation into how Project Veritas, in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, came into possession of a diary kept by Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, and other possessions she had stored at a house in Florida.
I take it that the government means to nail O’Keefe and Project Veritas. That’s what I’m saying.
The Times is working hand in hand with the national security establishment to make this point:
[The disclosure] highlighted how the Justice Department has resisted demands by the conservative group — which regularly engages in sting operations and ambush interviews against news organizations and liberal groups and has targeted perceived political opponents — to be treated as a news organization entitled to First Amendment protections.
It is highly unusual for the Justice Department to obtain the internal communications of journalists, as federal prosecutors are supposed to follow special guidelines to ensure they do not infringe on First Amendment rights.
Since the investigation was disclosed last fall, federal prosecutors have repeatedly said that because they have evidence that the group may have committed a crime in obtaining Ms. Biden’s belongings, Project Veritas is not entitled to First Amendment protections.
I omitted to mention this yesterday:
The group also disclosed that Uber had told two of its operatives who are under investigation — Spencer Meads and Eric Cochran — that it had handed over information from their accounts in March of last year in response to demands from the government.
The rest of the story details how Microsoft responded to the nondisclosure order(s) to which it was subject. The account gibes with my reconstruction of events based on Microsoft’s draft (unfiled) motion to vacate the nondisclosure order “for discussion purposes.”
Schmidt and Goldman do not ever pause to contemplate the Times’s own heedless approach to laws more serious than those involved in the case of Ashley Biden’s diary. If they did, they might find the treatment of Project Veritas — including their own treatment of Project Veritas — chilling.
Schmidt and Goldman exhibit no concern that the Times itself might itself more justifiably be subject to the Project Veritas treatment. That is the case I sought to make in my 2006 Weekly Standard column “Disclosure.” In the column I addressed the question: “Is the New York Times a law unto itself?”