The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has publicly criticized the FBI’s raid on Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe in a statement that also denounces the media outlet for allegedly deceptive journalism.
The ACLU stated on Nov. 15 that the FBI’s Nov. 6 raid on O’Keefe’s home “could have serious consequences for press freedom.” While the government has been tight-lipped publicly about its actions against Project Veritas, media reports, as well as court documents seen by The Epoch Times, indicate that the FBI is investigating the alleged theft of a diary of Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Joe Biden.
“Unless the government had good reason to believe that Project Veritas employees were directly involved in the criminal theft of the diary, it should not have subjected them to invasive searches and seizures,” said Brian Hauss, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s speech, privacy, and technology project.
“We urge the court to appoint a special master to ensure that law enforcement officers review only those materials that were lawfully seized and that are directly relevant to a legitimate criminal investigation,” he said.
While criticizing the FBI’s actions, the ACLU also accused Project Veritas of having “engaged in disgraceful deceptions.”
“Reasonable observers might not consider their activities to be journalism at all,” said Hauss.
The ACLU didn’t cite specific instances of deception by Project Veritas. Other media organizations have been highly critical of Project Veritas, although the organization prides itself on never losing a lawsuit or having to retract a story.
Given the apparent ideological divergences between the two organizations, observers have taken the ACLU’s defense of Project Veritas as a sign that the FBI’s actions were particularly egregious.
“Eight days after the armed, pre-dawn raid of our client James O’Keefe’s home and seizure of his confidential source, legal, & donor info, ACLU says it’s SO bad, even they are moved to condemn it,” said Project Veritas attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a former ACLU board member.
“The ACLU has to say how disgusting they find Project Veritas so that their liberal donors don’t get angry, but at least they issued a statement recognizing how dangerous DOJ/FBI’s actions against them could be for press freedom and demanded disclosures,” journalist and political commentator Glenn Greenwald said.
The ACLU statement follows a Nov. 11 federal court order for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop extracting and reviewing data from O’Keefe’s phones, which were seized during the raid. O’Keefe had made a motion last week for the appointment of a special master to supervise the review of the information on his phones, telling Judge Analisa Torres that the devices contained sensitive information related to Project Veritas investigations and legal matters.
“In addition to attorney-client privileged materials, both phones also contain newsgathering materials which are critical to the exercise of a free press and protected by the First Amendment,” according to O’Keefe’s motion, a copy of which was seen by The Epoch Times.
“These include materials related to news investigations (present and past), communications with whistleblowers and other confidential sources, communications with donors (crucial information protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of association), and internal discussion of investigative and editorial policies and practices.”
The Department of Justice has until Nov. 16 to respond to O’Keefe’s motion for a special master.
O’Keefe initially confirmed the raid on his home in Westchester County, New York, in a Nov. 8 appearance on Fox News.
“Banging on my door, I went to my door to answer the door and there were 10 FBI agents with a battering ram, white blinding lights. They turned me around, handcuffed me, and threw me against the hallway,” O’Keefe told host Sean Hannity. “I was partially clothed in front of my neighbors. They confiscated my phone. They raided my apartment.”
In an earlier statement, O’Keefe said that the DOJ—specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York—appeared to be investigating the alleged theft of a diary of Ashley Biden.
“We don’t know if it was, but it begs the question: In what world is the alleged theft of a diary investigated by the President’s FBI and his Department of Justice? A diary! This federal investigation smacks of politics. Project Veritas never threatened or engaged in any illegal conduct,” he said.