Not long ago, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe embarrassed the Border Patrol by walking into the US across the Rio Grande dressed as Osama bin Laden without anyone stopping him. That resulted in a dressing-down of DHS officials in a Senate hearing, and some heads rolled on account of it. Prior to that, O’Keefe had no problems going through Customs, but since then, O’Keefe has been selected for inspection on all six occasions that he has re-entered the US. On his most recent return from Greece, O’Keefe recorded his experiences, and released a new video this morning:
On one hand, O’Keefe has set up an expectation that his border crossings have an ulterior motive. O’Keefe himself tacitly acknowledges this by including his previous attempts on the Rio Grande and Lake Erie, but those involved attempts to evade border security rather than pass through it normally. In that sense, O’Keefe has a high profile within DHS, and they want to make sure that he’s not preparing his next exposé. “They don’t want to get egg on their face,” the agent tells O’Keefe, which is a rational reaction but ultimately ironic, considering this outcome.
However, the problem here is that the agents aren’t just checking to see whether O’Keefe is testing them with contraband. O’Keefe starts to get peppered with unusual questions about his work — his funding, his revenue sources, and then what his next investigation will cover. At one point, an agent asks O’Keefe whether he’d support Trump, or who he wants as the next nominee. Now, all of this could be intended as just simple curiosity and conversation — I get questions like these when people find out what I do for a living — but O’Keefe was being detained by federal agents while these questions were being asked, who work for an agency that these officials have already noted bears some animus toward O’Keefe. That has more than a whiff of Big Brother-style intimidation.
It wasn’t until the sixth time O’Keefe got stopped that he managed to see what Customs had in its computer on him. The record warns agents that he’s “an amateur reporter who engages in publicity stunts.” That may explain the extra scrutiny on the legitimate border issues (or at least a heightened sense of the need to stick to procedure), but it’s not clear why that would prompt questions about O’Keefe’s business model or his next story. Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security can explain it in their next appearance on Capitol Hill.
Update: Lake Erie, not Lake Michigan. I’ve corrected it above, and thanks to Dr. J for the correction.