On Monday, Project Veritas sued the State of Oregon, claiming that the state’s ban on secret audio recording violates the First Amendment. Project Veritas Founder James O’Keefe announced the lawsuit in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, the federal courthouse that violent antifa rioters repeatedly attacked, night after night, during the nearly 90 days of George Floyd riots in Portland.
O’Keefe said Oregon’s recording laws “prohibit us from going undercover inside these protests to figure out what was going on.”
“We have already overturned Massachusetts recording law, now we’re going to do the same in Oregon,” O’Keefe added.
Breaking: @Project_Veritas is suing the State of Oregon in federal court. @JamesOKeefeIII is at the Portland federal courthouse right now. This is the building that was attacked daily by antifa/BLM. A few days ago, all federal buildings were shut down because of a bomb threat. pic.twitter.com/FewdQM846B
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 24, 2020
Ben Barr, one of the attorneys filing the suit on behalf of Project Veritas, explained, “Oregon law currently makes it a criminal act to record a protest, or an interview, or nearly any other interaction without clear and conspicuous notice to anyone whose voice might be recorded.”
The lawsuit brings three claims against Oregon’s recording law: that it discriminates against certain forms of speech (by allowing citizens to record police in some circumstances, but barring most forms of recording); that it violates the First Amendment’s freedom of the press by denying the right to record secretly; and that it allows the state to “punish journalists for publishing truthful information.”
Project Veritas already embedded a reporter within Rose City Antifa in 2018 and released the videos in June 2020. However, the recording laws have “chilled” Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action from “exercising their First Amendment rights.” Were it not for the recording laws, Project Veritas “would engage in several journalism projects in the state immediately and in years to come.”
Specifically, Project Veritas claims that if it were not for Oregon’s recording laws, the investigative outlet would “focus its investigations in Oregon on the dramatic rise in violent protests in Portland between the police and members of Antifa and other fringe groups.” Project Veritas would launch four separate investigative efforts:
PV would secretly record interactions between the police and protestors to observe and report whether usual policing functions are occurring in Portland.
PV would secretly record discussions between PV journalists and the police to gather candid police perspectives on the causes of the protests and investigate issues that may not be known by the public.
PV would secretly record discussions between PV journalists and protestors to gather protestors’ perspectives about the causes of the protests, to learn about instances of police abuse, and to investigate any anti-police animus.
In less dangerous situations or when the situation does not permit for ease of secret recording, PV would openly record discussions with protestors but without specifically informing everyone in the conversation of the recording.
Project Veritas could not engage in these investigations without doing so anonymously. “Because protests and even ordinary public life in Portland have proven dangerous to reporters, PV fears that the safety and even lives of its journalists would be endangered if it were to record conversations openly and in plain view, or ‘specifically inform’ participants that they are being recorded,” the lawsuit explains.
“Outside of organized rallies, PV would seek to do most of its secret recording on public sidewalks, public parks, or in other areas held open to the public. But all of these methods are illegal under section 165.540,” Project Veritas notes.
Project Veritas has succeeded with a similar lawsuit in Massachusetts, and it seems this effort in Oregon has a good chance of succeeding, as well, so long as the antifa rioters do not succeed in burning down the courthouse in the process of litigation.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.