Project Veritas, an organization known for undercover video stings of mainstream news outlets and left-leaning activists, have stated in a new court filing that the FBI deemed the outlet to be part of the news media despite prosecutors later arguing that what the operation does is not journalism.
Project Veritas says it learned the FBI’s initial characterization of it from an unnamed FBI agent who considered the actions against the organization to be improper.
The agent sat for a video interview with Project Veritas’ founder, James O’Keefe, and provided O’Keefe a copy of an FBI document he said detailed the opening of an investigation into the group days before the presidential election in 2020, according to the filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The federal probe centered on the reported theft of a diary and other personal possessions from President Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, and led to FBI raids at the home of O’Keefe and two other individuals affiliated with the group in November 2021.
The raids kicked off a pitched legal battle between the Justice Department and Project Veritas, whose founder and attorneys contend that the organization’s activities amount to journalism and deserve all the protections accorded to reporters under federal law and Justice Department regulations.
Justice Department officials in Washington have declined to comment on whether the search warrants and data seizures aimed at Project Veritas were approved under federal guidelines that strictly limit investigative actions involving the news media.
However, federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have dismissed the idea that what the video-sting purveyors do is akin to ordinary reporting.
“Project Veritas is not engaged in journalism within any traditional or accepted definition of that word,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing in November. “Its ‘reporting’ consists almost entirely of publicizing non-consensual, surreptitious recordings made though unlawful, unethical, and or/dishonest means.”
Project Veritas says in its submission Wednesday that those arguments are at odds with the details in the FBI’s computer systems indicating the probe into Project Veritas was opened as a “sensitive investigative matter” on the grounds that it involved the “news media.”
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