Tapping phone lines? I know that that ain’t allowed:
Alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.
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.
More as it develops. (And watch the legacy media cover this without reporting, or minimizing O’Keefe’s role in the ACORN stings.)
Update: To borrow from the title of another 1970s-era song, Allahpundit is predicting “Ten Years Gone” for O’Keefe as a result of this latest stunt, and adds:
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.
Ohhh boy, indeed.™
Update: Michelle Malkin adds:
They are, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But for now, let it be a lesson to aspiring young conservatives interested in investigative journalism:
Know your limits. Know the law. Don’t get carried away. And don’t become what you are targeting.
Update: The Political Byline has a round-up of initial conservative reaction.
Update: Statement from Andrew Breitbart:
“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.”
More as it comes in.
Update: Hugh Hewitt has a lengthy interview with Breibart on O’Keefe’s arrest; transcript here.
Update: More from Breitbart at his Big Government Website.
Update: Patterico writes, “I’m sticking out my neck and declaring that I think this will prove to be a big nothing”:
I just don’t believe this guy was wiretapping phones or trying to do so. I really don’t.
It might not even have been an attempt to show how easy it would be to bug phones. Maybe there is another explanation. But I don’t think he was acting in a criminal fashion. I don’t.
You can quote me.
Update (1/28/10): The Washington Post walks back their “wiretapping allegation”, and sparks fly between Breitbart and “objective” MSNBC journalist David Shuster, in a new update online here.