The FBI’s probe of Project Veritas should have all Americans concerned over the application of the first amendment: Transporting stolen property across state lines is indeed a federal crime, so in that sense, the FBI’s investigation into the stolen diary of President Joe Biden’s daughter is entirely appropriate.
Two Floridians pleaded guilty last week to stealing the diary with the apparent intent to sell it to Project Veritas, a conservative undercover journalism outlet.
For its part, Project Veritas contends it believed Ashley Biden’s diary was legally obtained when it took possession. The outlet reportedly compensated the Floridians with $20,000. However, James O’Keefe did not report on the contents as an explosive pre-election blockbuster in 2020 because he wanted to verify the authenticity.
The authenticity has basically been verified with the two guilty pleas, which raises issues about more Biden family controversies, the ferocity of the FBI investigation, and potential free press threats.
News reports on the contents of the diary refer to “not appropriate” conduct and show Ashley Biden–if true–to be a victim based on the contents of the diary as well as a victim of theft.
The Florida duo has yet to be sentenced but could face up to five years for conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property.
The apparent target of the FBI investigation appears to be Project Veritas, writes former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.
“The defendants have agreed to cooperate in the continuing probe, in which the major target is clearly Project Veritas (PV), the organization run by James O’Keefe, which does undercover investigative reporting that targets the media-Democrat complex,” McCarthy wrote.
Perhaps Project Veritas isn’t your news source of record. That’s beside the point. The FBI’s raid of the outlet raises obvious First Amendment concerns.
Even ACLU attorney Brian Hauss argued in November after the raid: “Project Veritas has engaged in disgraceful deceptions, and reasonable observers might not consider their activities to be journalism at all. Nevertheless, the precedent set in this case could have serious consequences for press freedom. Unless the government had good reason to believe that Project Veritas employees were directly involved in the criminal theft of the diary, it should not have subjected them to invasive searches and seizures.”
As George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley wrote, “The media was not interested in the use of the FBI to launch a national investigation into the missing diary.”
“Indeed, the raiding of the home of a conservative publisher was barely noted even though the New York Times could also have been raided on the same grounds as Project Veritas,” Turley continued in a January commentary. “The Times acquired confidential and presumably stolen legal material from Project Veritas and, unlike Project Veritas, published the presumably stolen information. However, the Biden Justice Department was only interested in cracking down on the acquisition or coverage of the Ashley Biden diary.”
This diary obviously lacks the gravity of the Pentagon Papers. And cash didn’t exchange hands when the New York Times and Washington Post reported on the stolen government documents that told the back story of America’s involvementn in the Vietnam War. However, the documents were stolen. It was a victory for the American free press when the Supreme Court determined the government can’t prosecute news outlets for obtaining information.
“As with the Hunter Biden laptop, the Biden family has not denied the authenticity of the diary or the underlying passages,” Turley wrote. “It also did not sue the other conservative sites for defamation in publishing what they alleged to be passages from the diary. Instead, the family lawyers called upon the Justice Department to get involved the case of a missing diary.”
As for the politics of the matter, House Republicans already held a forum on the Biden administration’s threats to press freedom that included testimony from O’Keefe. Several Republicans called for a congressional investigation of the FBI’s handling of the raid. If Republicans regain the House majority–with subpoena power–it’s easy to see how a probe of the government’s actions with O’Keefe might expand.
Though politicians of all stripes have a history of bloviating about unsubstantiated allegations against opponents, Republican lawmakers are not likely to overreach beyond what’s verifiable in this case.