Is the bar about to be lowered again on what is acceptable research, journalism and opinion-based film? The news that a famous anti-ACORN conservative activist popular with Fox News and conservative websites was arrested while allegedly trying to bug Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office takes these issues to a higher — or lower — level.
It’ll be interested to see how this one plays out and how, in the end, the modus operendi emerges: will this be viewed as acceptable? Will those who agree with the activists fall into line and defend him? Or will this kind of activity — something that would get journalists working for the bulk news organizations fired — be now viewed as acceptable. If so, watch out now for the left and right activists who feel bugging is OK in the name of their ideological cause. And you thought politics was getting uglier, more personal and more brutal before?
Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.
Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.
An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested in a car blocks from the senator’s offices with a listening device. He spoke on condition of anonymity because that information was not included in official arresting documents.
According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street about 11 a.m. Monday, dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts, and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu’s 10th floor office, O’Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.
When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affadavit, observed O’Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O’Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.
After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn’t working. Flanagan did the same.
They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and Flanagan and Basel went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men’s credentials, after which they stated they left them in their vehicle.
The U.S. Marshal’s Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.
Have they watched too many episodes of The Sopranos? Or is this the way it’s now going to be in increasingly polarized American, where each side often assumes the worst thing about the other?
There used to be “GOTCHA” journalism.
Welcome to the era of “BUGYA” journalism.
Here are a few other responses representing different viewpoints:
Fox News has been one of the biggest supporters of James O’Keefe, who is infamous for dressing up as a pimp and videotaping ACORN staffers offering to help the supposed pimp and his prostitutes secure funding for a brothel. The network constantly replayed coverage from his operation. In September, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace named O’Keefe his “Power Player of the Week,” calling him an “undercover reporter” and a “fascinating character.”
Yesterday, the FBI arrested O’Keefe and three others — “charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony” — saying that they were plotting to wiretap Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office (D-LA). One of the other men, Robert Flanagan, is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. Two of the men “dressed as telephone company employees” and showed up to Landrieu’s New Orleans office, saying they had to “fix phone problems.” O’Keefe was already there and was “positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation”…
…Fox News aired a report about the arrests shortly after the news broke. However, reporter Tim Vaughn tried to downplay the news.
They are, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But for now, let it be a lesson to aspiring young conservatives interested in investigative journalism:
Know your limits. Know the law. Don’t get carried away. And don’t become what you are targeting.
—Crooks and Liars has two writers commenting on it:
Well, looky here! Can’t wait to hear how he tries to talk his way out of this one – and of course, his arrest will be prominently featured on every media outlet that cooperated in his ACORN smear…
Dave N.: Hmmm. Wonder how Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck — who have relied heavily on O’Keefe’s work to smear ACORN — will respond. One can only imagine the cries of persecution that will be erupting shortly.
One can’t help but be impressed by O’Keefe’s investigative-journalism technique. If only the rest of us poor schlubs had realized something O’Keefe obviously learned the first time around: You can get away with breaking the law if you can get it up on Fox News first.
we’ve always suspected that all we really need to do to discredit the hardly-ever-right wing is just leave them alone; sooner or later they will show themselves to be the raving lunatic fools that they are.
case in point: head acorn “investigator” james o’keefe, the man who made the youtube films showing under-trained employees getting tricked by stereotypes that would have embarrassed the writers of laugh-in, has been arrested on incredibly serious federal charges. n’awlins times-picayune:
In September, Rep. Michele Bachmann hailed as “brilliant” James O’Keefe, who with Hannah Giles orchestrated a sting operation at a Philadelphia ACORN office, posing as a pimp and a prostitute. Today, it appears that may have been an overestimation. Days after the duo was named in a federal lawsuit for the ACORN sting, O’Keefe was arrested by the FBI along with three others, allegedly for trying to wiretap the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Back in September, Bachmann praised O’Keefe and Giles at the How To Take Back America conference for their undercover expose of a Philadelphia ACORN office, in which they posed as a pimp and prostitute seeking advice from the anti-poverty group: “Hannah and James used Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ — that’s the community organizer’s bible — against ACORN! Brilliant!”
Citing an “ongoing investigation,” Landrieu’s office declined to comment.
Meanwhile, conservative bloggers reacted with dismay Tuesday.
Uh. That’s illegal. Just ask Nixon.
If this is all true, pretty dumb move…
I’m curious why O’Keefe and friends thought it would be a good idea to tamper with a Senator’s telephone. Even the most rudimentary among us knows that is a felony. What in the world could have been worth the risk. I don’t want to speculate too much until more is known, but it does boggle the mind.
Allahpundit has the legal aspect here, in which he points out that O’Keefe and his buddies could be looking at ten years. Yikes!
Given that O’Keefe is already looking at lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Maryland over the ACORN sting, I can’t believe he thought this would be a good idea.
The rightwing nut who did all those undercover videos of ACORN got busted trying to tap Mary Landrieu’s phones.
Heh. I can only hope the judge does a John Sirica, ie throws the book at him, and finds out exactly who’s been putting him up to this….
Rightbloggers are taking it slow with the one….Leftbloggers are more inclined toward what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “your flagon of schadenfreude.”
Breitbart, who had run O’Keefe’s ACORN sting videos and later hired him into his media empire, says he doesn’t know anything about it besides what he’s read about it in the corrupt mainstream media.
UPDATE: Reports indicate the suspects have been released. Here’s the AP’s video (via You Tube) on the story:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.