NEW YORK, NY – A number of journalists representing both left-and-right leaning media have joined a growing chorus of voices condemning the recent FBI raid of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe. The controversial conservative undercover news activist group has been caught up in an investigation into the allegedly stolen diary of Ashley Biden, daughter of President Joe Biden. It was reported that the Justice Department has been investigating the diary’s disappearance since October 2020; at that time, a Biden family member had told authorities that Ashley had personal belongings stolen in a burglary.
The diary was presented to O’Keefe in an attempt to sell it due to the “explosive allegations” contained within, but O’Keefe stated that his organization declined to publish it since they were unable to confirm that it was authentic at that time. Instead, O’Keefe said that Project Veritas turned it over to law enforcement.
Despite O’Keefe’s claim, the FBI conducted a raid on O’Keefe’s home Saturday morning, after having previously raided the homes of two other Project Veritas members. O’Keefe would later describe the experience while being interviewed on Monday by Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
“I woke up to a pre-dawn raid. Banging on my door, I went to my door to answer the door and there were ten FBI agents with a battering ram, white blinding lights, they turned me around, handcuffed me and threw me against the hallway,” O’Keefe said. “I was partially clothed in front of my neighbors. They confiscated my phone. They raided my apartment. On my phone were many of my reporters’ notes. A lot of my sources unrelated to this story and a lot of confidential donor information to our news organization.”
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Despite the polarizing opinions that many have in regards to Project Veritas, many journalists on both sides of the political aisle came out in defense of O’Keefe, including Trevor Timm, Executive Director for Freedom of the Press Foundation. Timm issued a statement on Twitter, saying that while he personally doesn’t care for Project Veritas, what happened to O’Keefe was “worrying” in terms of a free press.
“I’m sorry, but this is worrying from a press freedom perspective—unless & until DOJ releases evidence Protect Veritas was directly involved in the theft. Because if there is none, then the raids could very well be a violation of the Privacy Protection Act,” he tweeted. “I know I’m going to get two dozen replies to this tweet saying, ‘but O’Keefe not a journalist!!’ Read the statute, it doesn’t matter. I don’t personally like Project Veritas at all, but imagine this was a liberal org under Trump. Not a good precedent.”
New York Times media columnist Ben Smith also sounded off on the O’Keefe FBI raid, saying,
“Don’t think journalists should be cheerleading this one.” He then added, “*Pending details which will matter a lot!”
Politico correspondent Ben Schreckinger tweeted his agreement with Smith, calling the raid “chilling” and drawing comparisons with the situation that Hunter Biden – Ashley Biden’s brother – is currently in due to leaked computer files from a laptop that he reportedly left in a computer repair shop.
“The raid threatens to have a chilling effect at a time when the president’s other child is under intense scrutiny that is, in part, related to the leaking of his computer files,” Schreckinger said.
The The Privacy Protection Act of 1980 (PPA), with some exceptions, forbids all levels of law enforcement from searching for and seizing journalists’ work product and documentary materials.