On Wednesday, District Court Judge Analisa Torres from the Southern District of New York is ordering a “special master” to be appointed to oversee the review of O’Keefe’s devices, citing “potential First Amendment concerns.”
“The Court recognizes, as other courts in this district have concluded, that ‘the Southern District prosecutors have integrity and decency,’ and the filter team alone could conduct the review ‘with utmost integrity,’” Torres wrote. “However, the Court determines that the appointment of a special master is warranted here because ‘it is important that the procedure adopted… not only be fair but also appear to be fair.’ … In light of the potential First Amendment concerns that may be implicated by the review of the materials seized from Petitioners, the Court finds that the appointment of a special master will ‘help to protect the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.'”
“The appointment of a Special Master over the objections of the Department of Justice is further evidence of Government overreach in their heavy-handed violation of the First Amendment and journalistic privilege during the investigation of the purported theft of a diary belonging to the daughter of the President,” a representative for Project Veritas told Fox News in a statement.
“Project Veritas appreciates the ruling but continues to insist that the Government show the public why they conducted these raids and return legally privileged material immediately,” the representative added.
The judge previously ordered the Department of Justice to halt its review of O’Keefe’s phones pending Project Veritas’ request for a special master.
The counsel for Project Veritas sent a letter to chairmen and ranking members of congressional committees urging them to investigate the DOJ’s actions.
“These raids were not justified by any legitimate law enforcement concern. Project Veritas acted lawfully and within its First Amendment right to investigate a potential source of information relevant to the public interest,” attorney Mark Paoletta wrote to lawmakers on Wednesday. “The FBI and DOJ try to justify their targeting of Project Veritas by arguing that it isn’t a real news organization, and its reporters aren’t real journalists… This is absurd. Project Veritas is a news gathering organization that engages in undercover journalism, which has long been a form of investigative journalism used to hold the government, corporations, and other organizations accountable. And as a news organization, it is entitled to the protection the Attorney General promised in his memo. But more importantly, the First Amendment’s protection is not limited to those the government or other legacy media deign to call ‘real’ journalists. It belongs to all the people of the United States who engage in reporting and ‘press’ activities, whether formally or informally.”
Last month, the homes of O’Keefe and two other Project Veritas associates were raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into the alleged “theft” of a diary belonging to President Biden‘s daughter, Ashley Biden.
“I woke up to a pre-dawn raid,” O’Keefe told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview. “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. 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.”
“I’ve heard ‘the process is the punishment.’ I didn’t really understand what that meant until this weekend. And Sean, I wouldn’t wish this on any journalist,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe said he was “in a state of shock” as FBI agents spent over two hours searching his apartment, telling Hannity they took two of his iPhones.
The investigation, which is also being conducted by the Southern District of New York, surrounds a “stolen” diary belonging to Ashley Biden that went missing just days before the 2020 presidential election.
O’Keefe alleged in a video statement that “within an hour” of the FBI’s raid of the home of a Project Veritas reporter, The New York Times contacted that reporter for comment.
“We do not know how the New York Times was aware of the execution of a search warrant at our reporter’s home or the subject matter of the search warrant as a grand jury investigation is secret,” O’Keefe said. “The FBI took materials of current, former Project Veritas journalists despite the fact that our legal team previously contacted the Department of Justice and voluntarily conveyed unassailable facts that demonstrate Project Veritas’ lack of involvement in criminal activity, and or criminal intent.”
“Our efforts were the stuff of responsible ethical journalism, and we are in no doubt that Project Veritas acted properly at each and every step,” O’Keefe asserted.
The Project Veritas founder then explained that “tipsters” approached his group late last year alleging to have Ashley Biden’s diary containing “explosive allegations” about her father, then the Democratic nominee, and that the diary was allegedly abandoned in a room that she had stayed at and that they stayed after.
The “tipsters,” who O’Keefe said he had never met prior, were apparently negotiating with media outlets to sell Biden’s diary and that ultimately, Project Veritas did not publish the book’s contents because his group was not able to independently verify its authenticity.
“Project Veritas gave the diary to law enforcement to ensure it could be returned to its rightful owner. We never published it,” O’Keefe said. “Now, Ms. Biden’s father’s Department of Justice, specifically the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, appears to be investigating the situation, claiming the diary was stolen. We don’t know if it was but it begs the question: In what world is the alleged theft of a diary investigated by the President’s FBI and his Department of Justice? A diary?”
O’Keefe went on to claim the investigation “smacks of politics” but that Project Veritas will “not back down.”