O'Keefe claims vindication

The investigative journalist who hammered ACORN but got arrested in a district office for a Democrat Senator claimed vindication at Big Hollywood today.  James O’Keefe says that the government has “confirmed” that he and his partners in his latest operation did not intend to tap or sabotage the telephone system, but doesn’t provide a link to anything suggesting that law enforcement has dropped its inquiry:

The government has now confirmed what has always been clear:  No one tried to wiretap or bug Senator Landrieu’s office.  Nor did we try to cut or shut down her phone lines.  Reports to this effect over the past 48 hours are inaccurate and false. …

I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu’s constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn’t want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the healthcare bill.  When asked about this, Senator Landrieu’s explanation was that, “Our lines have been jammed for weeks.”  I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for “weeks” because her phones were broken.  In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office – the people’s office – to ask the staff if their phones were working.

There has been considerable overreach by some media outlets, to be sure.  Some elements of the story have come directly from the report filed by the FBI,- detailing what the witnesses told them about the operation.  That information remains to be tested in court, but the description therein doesn’t quite square with O’Keefe’s explanation.  They wouldn’t have needed to get access to the telephone closet in order to observe people answering the phone, and attempting to access it under false pretenses (representing themselves as telephone-company technicians) strongly implies that they wanted access for other reasons.

If the FBI affadavit or the witness testimony is inaccurate, then that will come out in court.  However, I doubt that the FBI got the description of their clothing wrong, and dressing up as telephone repairmen wouldn’t have been necessary at all to get undercover video of people answering the phone, or not answering it, as the case may be.  If all O’Keefe and his people wanted was an admission that the phone system was working, then the disguise may have helped, but it still wouldn’t have been necessary to gain access to the phone closet.

O’Keefe seems to recognize that now:

On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building.  The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their Senator.  We video taped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I’m eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.

Even accepting O’Keefe’s explanation, his team still appears to have broken the law by gaining admission to a federal office under false pretenses and attempting to access the phone system, possibly with “willful and malicious” intent to interfere with it.  Be sure to read Allahpundit’s analysis of the law and how it applies to this situation.  If a judge winds up with this case, he will certainly take intent and purpose under consideration but it doesn’t change the fact that O’Keefe should have done his homework and reconsidered this very bad idea before engaging in it.  And what for?  To get on people on tape answering the phones?  That’s not exactly a journalistic scoop.

I’d guess that the four will wind up pleading to a lesser charge and get unsupervised probation, at worst. Depending on how hot the local US Attorney is to pursue this case, it may wind up going nowhere.