Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Watergate Burglars, They Ain't

Four Arrested in Phone Tampering at U.S. Senator's Office:

Federal officials arrested four men on Monday and charged them with posing as telephone technicians to illegally tamper with the telephone system in the New Orleans offices of Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana.

The men arrested were [James] O’Keefe, 25, Joseph Basel, 24, Robert Flanagan, 24, and Stan Dai, 24, the affidavit stated. Mr. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, the interim United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.

An affidavit signed by Steven Rayes, a special agent for the F.B.I., detailed parts of the operation, which began about 11 a.m. on Monday. Mr. Basel and Mr. Flanagan entered the building dressed in “blue denim pants, blue work shirts, light green fluorescent vests, tool belts, and construction-style hard hats.”

According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the men arrested was James O’Keefe, a filmmaker who produced videos purporting to document questionable practices at some field offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn. In the videos, Mr. O’Keefe and an associate, Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, secretly filmed themselves seeking and receiving financial advice for a brothel from Acorn workers.
Snicker. I remember that guy. In that sense, it's not surprising this would be the next step for the budding "gotcha videographer" and his career, especially after becoming something of a folk hero on the right.

One wonders how quickly they will disavow their connection.
Mr. O’Keefe was in New Orleans last Thursday, giving a talk for the Pelican Institute, a libertarian think tank that “conducts scholarly research and analysis of Louisiana public policy.”

The topic of the speech was “Exposing Truth: Undercover Video, New Media and Creativity.”

That's the first time I've ever heard deception and going undercover referred to as "creative." It must have gone over well with the Pelican Institute's Scholars.

Here's hoping O'Keefe gets protective custody while in jail, just in case, y'know, one "them real" criminals recognizes him from the video and decides to exact a bit of jail justice.

UPDATE: This morning's WaPo features this little congressional nugget:

In October, 31 members of Congress signed a resolution, authored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.), to honor O'Keefe and Giles "for their diligent investigative journalism exposing the fraudulent and potentially illegal activities" of ACORN.

"Hannah and James should be applauded for their efforts to root out corruption and abuse of federal tax dollars," Olson said, adding that they were "setting an example for concerned citizens across America that we can hold those who receive taxpayer funds accountable."

Olson said Tuesday that he understandably supported exposing the misdeeds of a government contractor. "However, if recent events conclude that any laws were broken in the incident in Senator Landrieu's office -- that is not something I condone," he said in a statement.
I'd type a cryptic "LOL" right about here, but the tears in my eyes prevent me from seeing the keyboard clearly.

UPDATE II: Dude supposedly "tweeted" about the plan on New Year's Eve.
"2008: Planned Parenthood VPs fired 2009: ACORN defunded 2010: Get ready cuz this is about to get heavy," he wrote on his public Twitter page, dubbed "JamesOKeefeIII."

O'Keefe and three other men face charges of entering federal property on false pretenses as part of a plot to tamper with the lawmaker's phone. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
He was prescient in his "cuz this is about to get heavy" prediction, I'll say that.

Y'know, fundamentally I'm not against this kind of muckraking "journalism" (if that's indeed what it is/was). Hunter Thompson pulled off undercover infiltrations, as does Matt Taibbi today, from the left. This O'Keefe guy does it from the right. Nothing beats holding the powers that be and their collective feet to the fire.

But in an age of hyper-security and paranoia, particularly as it pertains to federal buildings and officials, this "stunt" was dangerously close to being off the charts. I would bet the charges end up being dropped, but there's a "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater" moment here somewhere.

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