Update 2/1/10: The report below was written on January 26, based on initial wire service reports of the incident, much, if not all of which came into dispute in the days afterward. As of February 1st, there are no allegations of any bugging plot in the FBI affidavit that was released early last week and a law enforcement official has conceded that the four men were not attempting to wiretap or intercept calls. Furthermore, legal representation for the accused has gone on record stating there were no intentions to bug the phones in the Senator’s office. Pajamas Media.com regrets having relied on the erroneous initial wire reports of the incident, and we are happy to present this correction to the record. So as not to completely airbrush our article into the memory hole, the original report follows below.
Conservative activist James O’Keefe has been arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Service for allegedly attempting to bug the offices of U..S. Senator Mary Landrieu. Also arrested were Robert Flanagan, the son of a federal prosecutor, and two others.
O’Keefe and partner Hannah Giles rose to fame for a video sting against the community activist group ACORN. The videos appeared on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website. According to a report on Twitter, Big Government’s editors claim to have had no knowledge of events in Louisiana.
From a report in Hotline on Call:
O’Keefe gained fame and notoriety last year when, dressed as a pimp, he videotaped ACORN employees advising him and a female companion about running a prostitution scheme. The Times-Picayune reported that O’Keefe gave a speech on Jan. 21 to Libertarian Pelican Institute in New Orleans about investigative reporting and the role of new media.
O’Keefe is said to have been recording his alleged accomplices’ actions on a cell phone after they entered Landrieu’s offices dressed as telephone repairmen.
Flanagan and Basel were “each dressed in blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a light green fluorescent vest, a tool belt and a construction-style hard hat when they entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building,” the release said.
After they entered the building, the two men told a staffer in Landrieu’s office they were telephone repairmen, according to the release. They then asked for, and were granted, access to the reception desk’s phone system.
O’Keefe, meanwhile, recorded their actions with a cell phone.
(View the four-page arrest affidavit here.)
Landrieu’s office is not commenting, citing an ongoing investigation. If convicted, the four men could face fines of up to $250,000 and up to ten years in jail.
Based upon other news reports:
A news release from the US Attorney’s office in eastern LA said the four men walked into Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans on Monday. Flanagan and Basel were dressed as phone repairmen. O’Keefe was already in the office with a cell phone camera recording his alleged accomplices.
“Because the details of yesterday’s incident are part of an ongoing investigation by federal authorities, our office cannot comment at this time,” said Aaron Saunders, Landrieu’s communications director.
Calls to the FBI and U.S. Atty’s office in New Orleans were not immediately returned. If convicted, all 4 could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250K fine.
Also, based upon early blog reporting, Flanagan appears to be linked to the Pelican Institute. O’Keefe was reported to have addressed the group this past weekend. Flanagan’s attorney believes his client is employed by the Pelican Institute.
O’Keefe on Thursday gave a speech to the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a libertarian group in New Orleans.
Last fall, O’Keefe was hailed as a conservative hero for dressing as a pimp and taping ACORN employees offering advice on how he and a partner could get away with running an international under-age prostitution scheme.
The New Orleans event was promoted with this glowing statement about O’Keefe by the Pelican Institute: “James has been a pioneer in the use of new media to drive these kinds of important stories. He will discuss the role of new media and show examples of effective investigative reporting.”
The blog report also pointed to a Stan Dai based in Washington who may fit the profile one would expect for one of O’Keefe’s accomplices. However, it is unconfirmed as to whether or not it is the same Dai who has been arrested as a result of the alleged wiretapping scheme.