Caleb Howe has some fun at the expense of MSNBC’s David Shuster – which is admittedly like hunting cows – over Shuster’s haste to make partisan hay over the arrest of James O’Keefe at the offices of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, contrasted with Shuster’s muted, caution-filled response to Nidal Hasan’s mass shooting at Fort Hood.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to miss the O’Keefe story, he’s one of the college-age right-wing gonzo-journalist types who busted ACORN with a string of undercover videos in which he dressed up as a cartoonish pimp and got various ACORN employees to counsel him on things such as how to safely employ underage hookers who were in the country illegally. Anyway, O’Keefe and three accomplices were busted yesterday by federal authorities at one of Senator Landrieu’s district offices in Louisiana – two of the others were posing as telephone repairmen and O’Keefe was apparently videotaping them with his cell phone. Left-wingers like Shuster, desperately starved for some good news, went nuts on the story (the media reacted far, far faster to this than they did to the original ACORN story – a response that may be the privilege of advocates on one side or the other, but speaks quite ill of anybody pretending to be an objective mainstream news agency), blaring that this was a conspiracy to plant illegal wiretaps on Senator Landrieu’s phones.
If so, that was wrong, illegal and colossally stupid on the part of O’Keefe and his henchmen, ad the potential charges under federal wiretapping statutes are steep, whereas the returns on tapping the main phone line at a Senator’s local district office are likely to be slim pickings indeed. The Louisiana Democratic Party was calling this “Louisiana’s Watergate,” as if Watergate would even have made a list of the top 50 scandals ever to hit the Louisiana Democratic Party, but then the LDP has never been short on chutzpah; liberals were likewise quick to forget their own side’s ugly history in this area, ranging from Congressman James McDermott being successfully sued for distributing an illegally intercepted cell phone conversation by GOP leadership, to Sarah Palin’s emails being hacked by the son of a prominent Tennessee Democrat, to John Kerry’s campaign manager in his first Congressional race (his brother, who still gets jobs from the Democrats) being busted for breaking into an opponent’s headquarters.
But unlike the Fort Hood shooting or, say, the recent arrest of former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter on yet another charge of soliciting underage sex, in this case waiting to see what the facts are may actually provide something of a different story. Maybe O’Keefe really is a knucklehead, but Patterico looks more carefully at the arrest affidavit and notes the absence of any allegation that O’Keefe or his accomplices had any bugs or other listening devices on them when they were arrested (although there was a reference to an unspecified listening device in one of their cars several blocks away) – that hasn’t stopped major media from headlining the claim that they were caught planting bugs, but then O’Keefe (unlike Hasan) is not the kind of figure who gets “alleged” put in front of charges of his misdeeds. And Patterico at least suggests a possible alternative explanation: that O’Keefe’s group may have been trying to get to the bottom of media reports that Sen. Landrieu’s phone lines have been too jammed to receive calls from constituents opposed to the health care bill.
Anyway, wait and see. The odds are that O’Keefe’s brief career is over and he’s headed to jail – which does not a whit to change what he exposed about ACORN, but nonetheless would get him out of the business of running future exposes – but even so, we may yet find out that not all is as initially reported.
UPDATE: Fox News says that O’Keefe’s story is that this didn’t involve wiretapping, but – prudently, if I’m his lawyer – he’s not offering much else in the way of detail.
SECOND UPDATE: Good Lt. at the Jawa Report elaborates on Patterico’s theory and how it may fit with the affidavit. MSNBC has a similar take from law enforcement sources that makes it sound like they were definitely vandalizing the phones:

[T]he men, led by conservative videomaker James O’Keefe, wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative. They were apparently motivated, the official says, by criticism that when Sen. Landrieu became a big player in the health care debate, people in Louisiana were having a hard time getting through on the phones to register their views.
That is, the official says, what led the four men to pull this stunt — to see how the local staffers would react if the phones went out. Would the staff just laugh it off, or would they express great concern that local folks couldn’t get through?

5 thoughts on “Untapped”

  1. This isn’t incredibly surprising. While I laughed at their exposing the crooks at ACORN, I also realized they were taking risks in doing these stunts. When people take risks they tend to get increasingly bold. This is especially true when previous actions received considerable applause. Most folks with a clue knew ACORN was garbage. However, normal journalism would not have revealed the truth about ACORN. It took clownish crap like this to reveal the truth. Problem for O’Keefe is the same creativity that made him more effective than paid journalists also led to him pulling this stunt. The thing with the previous tapes is we only saw the ones that he and Breitbart released. Who knows what else they have done? I hope they got legal advise before initiating this action, but I kind of doubt it.

  2. On another blog they theorized, based on all the evidence, this was a “sting’ regarding phone service to Landrieu’s office. During the HC debate people couldn’t get through to her office to lodge complaints. The thought is these guys were trying to get the staff to say something incriminating about that.

  3. The MSM should wait until all the facts are in before commenting.
    Over-reacting without knowing the real story is Congress’ job. (see ACORN de-funding vote).
    ACORN’s garbage: more citizen representation in a democratic republic?

  4. Typical conservatives. Laws? What laws? By definition, whatever I do is not only lawful, but morally required.

  5. Magrooder,
    You just think that because you haven’t seen John Yoo’s memos concerning his “25-year old media whore unitary theory”.

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