James O’Keefe arrested for trying to
tap “interfere with” Mary Landrieu’s phones; Update: Breitbart statement added
posted at 4:45 pm on January 26, 2010 by Allahpundit
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 both went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men’s credentials, after which they stated they left them in their vehicle.
“Flanagan” is actually Robert Flanagan, son of William Flanagan, the current … acting U.S. Attorney for western Louisiana. Ohhhhhhhh boy.
The editors of Big Government claim they knew nothing about it, which is almost certainly true: No way would Breitbart be so stupid as to sign off on tapping a senator’s phone. What makes this doubly bizarre, of course, is that O’Keefe was already threatened with legal action by ACORN for surreptitiously videotaping inside their offices. You’d think if he was planning to try something as insanely underhanded as this, he might have done, say, a Wikipedia search about whether it’s illegal to, um, tamper with government phone lines.
Here are the two statutes cited in the affidavit, incidentally: Sections 1036 and 1362 of Title 18. The former, entering federal property under false pretenses, is clear cut, which is probably why the four allegedly already admitted to it. The more serious charge is section 1362:
Whoever willfully or maliciously injures or destroys any of the works, property, or material of any radio, telegraph, telephone or cable, line, station, or system, or other means of communication, operated or controlled by the United States, or used or intended to be used for military or civil defense functions of the United States, whether constructed or in process of construction, or willfully or maliciously interferes in any way with the working or use of any such line, or system, or willfully or maliciously obstructs, hinders, or delays the transmission of any communication over any such line, or system, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
I assume the defense is going to be something like, “We never intended to tap the phone, we simply wanted to show how easy it would be if someone wanted to do it,” but even so: Ohhhhhhhhhhhh boy. Ten years.
Update: Breitbart says he didn’t know.
“We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O’Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office. We only just learned about the alleged incident this afternoon. We have no information other than what has been reported publicly by the press. Accordingly, we simply are not in a position to make any further comment.”
Update (1/27): The editor of Big Government e-mails to note that the FBI affidavit doesn’t explicitly accuse O’Keefe of trying to tap the phone but of “willfully and maliciously interfering” with the phone system. Fair enough; I’ve changed the headline to make that clearer. Here’s Breitbart’s post calling people out for jumping the gun:
I’m sure [media] would like to believe O’Keefe is stupid enough to try to “wiretap” a sitting U.S. senator in broad daylight during office hours, while recording the entire sequence of events on his cell phone camera. And they’d like you to believe it, too.
But there is absolutely no allegation in the criminal complaint that “wiretapping” or “bugging” is any part of this case, just the charge that O’Keefe and the others entered Sen. Landrieu’s office in New Orleans “for the purpose of interfering with the office’s telephone system.”