The Washington Post reports that James O’Keefe stands accused of a plot to “bug” Mary Landrieu’s office:
When I first read a news story about this yesterday, it sounded to me like O’Keefe and company were being accused of an attempt to wiretap or bug Landrieu’s phones. Indeed, that’s the way I characterized the Government’s claim in my post based on a news story. But now I have had a chance to review the affidavit. And it doesn’t say that.
The link to the affidavit is here. I challenge you to find me the language that accuses O’Keefe et al. of a “plot to bug” Landrieu’s office, or an “alleged wiretap scheme.”
It isn’t there.
What you will see is an allegation that three of the four men entered the office pretending to be telephone company employees. O’Keefe was allegedly holding his cell phone as if to record the other two on video. You know, the kind of undercover recording thing that he does.
One witness allegedly saw one of the other two men “take the handset of the phone and manipulate it.” This is the main phone at the reception desk, presumably in full view of everyone. What does “manipulate” mean? I don’t know. Does it mean he simply picked the phone up? That would technically comport with one dictionary definition of “manipulate” — to “operate with . . . the hands.”
The language implies something more sinister, to be sure. Implies. If the man had tried to take the phone apart it would have been simple to say so.
Then the affidavit has them asking for access to the telephone closet to perform repair work. It does not say they went into the closet. Were they simply waiting for someone to ask: “What repair work? There’s nothing wrong with the phones!”? I don’t know.
I do know this: the affidavit does not say one word about any of them possessing any listening devices. Not one.
There is a story in which someone anonymous individual (isn’t that the type of person we’re supposed to be skeptical of?) claims that there was a listening device in the possession of one of the men, in a car blocks away:
An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senator’s offices. He spoke on condition of anonymity because that information was not included in official arresting documents.
If we are going to accept the word of Mr. Anonymous Leaker, then whatever “listening device” they had was blocks away. If they were trying to bug the offices, why would the bug be blocks away? It would be in the possession of the three other people inside the offices. And that, it seems to me, would be in the affidavit. Which it isn’t.
So the Washington Post here is making an assumption that the feds are alleging an attempted wiretapping. Hey, when I posted a quick one-line take on the story yesterday at lunch, I made the same assumption. But the Washington Post writer is making this assumption after having had plenty of time to read the affidavit and see that it says no such thing. That’s sloppy journalism. It’s a poor assumption that disfavors O’Keefe in the public eye.
And here’s the thing: the same Washington Post writer has been deceitful about O’Keefe in the past.
Look at who wrote today’s story:
Remember when the Washington Post slandered O’Keefe by claiming that he had targeted ACORN to keep them from registering blacks and Hispanics to vote? And then they had to issue an embarrassing correction?
This article about the community organizing group ACORN incorrectly said that a conservative journalist targeted the organization for hidden-camera videos partly because its voter-registration drives bring Latinos and African Americans to the polls. Although ACORN registers people mostly from those groups, the maker of the videos, James E. O’Keefe, did not specifically mention them.
Guess who wrote that story?
What is that reporter doing reporting about James O’Keefe? And isn’t it funny that she is leaping to assumptions after she should have read an affidavit that doesn’t back her assumptions up?
Look: I wasn’t there and I therefore don’t know what happened. But O’Keefe has a history of goofy, humorous, over-the-top undercover stunts to make a political point. Wiretapping doesn’t seem like his style. And the facts in the affidavit — especially the lack of reference anywhere to any listening devices in the possession of anyone in the building — suggest to me that’s not what he was doing.
What was he doing? I don’t know. You might look at UPDATE x4 to my initial post about this, and consider the story linked there. Which has to do with Landrieu’s phones being “jammed” over calls coming in regarding her position on health care:
“We were stunned to learn that so many phone calls to Sen. Landrieu have been unanswered and met with continuous busy signals,” Perkins said. “We asked them to call their senators. They could get through to Sen. Vitter, but not Sen. Landrieu.”
“Our lines have been jammed for weeks, and I apologize,” Landrieu said in interview after giving a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. “But no amount of jamming is going to keep me from supporting a good work for Louisiana and the nation.”
In any event, it’s time for people to take a look at what has been presented and what hasn’t with a close, skeptical eye.
And then let’s hear O’Keefe’s side of the story.
Maybe there is an explanation that makes sense. Maybe.
UPDATE: Guess what? Even law enforcement now concedes that O’Keefe was not there to wiretap Landrieu.
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