The FBI deemed Project Veritas a media outlet in an internal document before claiming in public it does not conduct journalism, the nonprofit journalism group said in a new court filing.
An FBI whistleblower was said to have passed the document to Project Veritas. It states that the bureau opened an investigation on Oct. 29, 2020, under the designation of “news media.”
“It is evident from this report that the government recognized on day #1 that Project Veritas is a member of the ‘news media,'” Paul Calli, a Project Veritas lawyer, told the court.
“This contemporaneous acknowledgment of Project Veritas’ purpose to disseminate news to the public cannot be reconciled with the government’s subsequent (and unsuccessful) argument that Project Veritas is not engaged in journalism,” he said.
U.S. prosecutors said in November 2021 that Project Veritas “is not engaged in journalism within any traditional or accepted definition of that word.”
“Its ‘reporting’ consists almost entirely of publicizing non-consensual, surreptitious recordings made though unlawful, unethical, and or/dishonest means,” prosecutors alleged.
Project Veritas, headed by James O’Keefe, primarily reports through video recordings obtained by its reporters going undercover or from sources working within various organizations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, a Biden appointee, prohibited federal prosecutors from using legal avenues to seize records from the news media in a July 2021 memorandum.
But FBI agents raided the homes of O’Keefe and two other Project Veritas employees in November while investigating what officials describe as the theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, President Joe Biden’s daughter.
Project Veritas has said it was given a document said to be the diary but ultimately decided against publishing it because it could not verify its authenticity. The document was handed over to local law enforcement in Florida.
Prosecutors argued that because Project Veritas does not engage in journalism, the group and its employees likely were not entitled to protections that journalists enjoy.
The newly obtained document’s designation “exposes the prosecutors’ deceit,” Calli said.
Department of Justice regulations require a federal prosecutor or FBI agent to obtain the authorization of the attorney general to try to get a warrant to search records held by a member of the news media. The regulations prohibit using warrants to seize newsgathering materials.
Project Veritas says the new information shows the government violated the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as department regulations. It is asking the court to immediately order the government to return seized electronic devices to its reporters.