By Brad Friedman on 5/27/2010, 4:05pm PT  

Remember the disingenuous snit fits that Rightwing con-man Andrew Breitbart and his Tea Bag Boyz were on about when the original reports broke of "a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans" by Republican dirty trickster James O'Keefe and his band of co-conspirators?

They were outraged --- outraged --- that the "liberal media" had included the word "wiretap" in their reports about the felony arrests of the operatives, since the FBI's arrest affidavit didn't specifically mention an attempt to wiretap or bug the phones in her office. In a desperate attempt to distract from the actual story and find some way to support their friends' charged with serious federal felonies, the Tea Bag Boyz demanded that a number of media outlets issue immediate retractions for the claim, and, of course, the "liberal media" outlets complied --- as instructed --- as usual.

The notion of calling the federal criminals "TeaBuggers" just drove Andy's boys --- particularly the shamelessly pseudonymous wingnut blogger & L.A. County Dep. District Attorney, Patrick "Patterico" Frey --- to embarrassingly self-righteous (and inaccurate) distraction!

The fact was, of course, that, at the time, we had no idea what O'Keefe and friends were actually trying to do in that office, and O'Keefe --- who already had a well-established, if entirely unreported, record of lying to the media and the public about his phony, highly-doctored and illegally-recorded ACORN videos --- then went on to offer a preposterous public statement to explain his New Orleans scheme.

But now that O'Keefe's superstar GOP attorney was successful in pleading his client's felony charges down to a misdemeanor --- to which he and his conspirators pled guilty yesterday before a federal magistrate --- lo and behold, the FBI has released its own account of the arrest and plea deal.

And whaddaya know? According to the FBI, O'Keefe did plan to secretly wiretap the proceedings by secretly recording the conversations of employees in a U.S. Senator's office...

As today's FBI announcement (hat-tip John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent --- see his report for the full statement) reveals, O'Keefe and his co-conspirators had planned to secretly tape, with secret recorders, and they even lied to Landrieu's office workers while in the midst of doing it [emphasis added]:

According to court documents, the four men met in New Orleans on Jan. 20, 2010, to discuss various topics, including possible scenarios to engage the staff of Senator Mary Landrieu in her office inside the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans and to record the interactions. On Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, O’Keefe called Flanagan and invited him to participate in the plan, which Flanagan accepted. The next day, Basel, Dai, Flanagan and O’Keefe met, discussed the disguises they would wear, and practiced how they would interact with Senator Landrieu’s staff and record the interactions.

Also according to court documents, at approximately 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, Basel, Flanagan and O’Keefe met in an office near the Hale Boggs Federal Building to finalize their plan, check the recording devices and mount a camera in one of the disguises. During this meeting, O’Keefe explained how the recording devices worked and instructed Basel and Flanagan how to position themselves once inside the Senator’s office.

At approximately 11:00 a.m., Basel, Flanagan and O’Keefe entered the federal building and passed through the security screening. Their purpose was to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls to the Senator’s staff and capture the resulting conversation on video. Dai remained outside to provide support. Basel and Flanagan were each dressed like telephone repairmen, wearing blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a fluorescent green vest, a tool belt and a white hard hat. One of the hats contained a video recording device installed on the brim.

O’Keefe entered Senator Landrieu’s office first and positioned a digital video recorder made to look like a cellular telephone in his hand to record the interaction. He told the staff that he was waiting for a friend. He recorded the subsequent interaction.

Basel and Flanagan entered the office soon thereafter and told the Senator’s staff that they were telephone repairmen who were following up on reports of problems with the telephone system. A staff member said that there were no problems with the phone system, and Basel then asked the staff member for permission to test the phone. Basel then walked behind a staff member’s desk, lifted the handset from the cradle, questioned whether there was a dial tone and handled the receiver. Basel and Flanagan each pretended to call the office phone with their own cellular phones, and they said the calls would not go through. O’Keefe also interjected and said he had previously placed a call to the office that would not go through.

So not only were they secretly recording the federal officials --- secret recordings of that nature are illegal under the wiretap laws in some twelve states --- they out-and-out lied to them in order to secretly record their reactions to those misleading lies.

You'll recall O'Keefe's preposterous explanation for the NOLA scam, issued, of course, on his employer Andrew Breitbart's website(s). In the statement, O'Keefe instructed us that a comment attributed to Landrieu, in which she discussed calls her office received from constituents concerning health insurance legislation by saying, "Our lines have been jammed for weeks," actually meant that her phones were "broken."

"I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for 'weeks' because her phones were broken," O'Keefe claimed. "In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office – the people’s office – to ask the staff if their phones were working."

Well, that wasn't the real story, was it?

O'Keefe first twisted the meaning of "jammed" --- as in busy with people calling the office --- with the notion that the phone lines were "broken" in his absurd "statement." But moreover, he didn't plan to simply "ask the staff if their phones were working," as claimed on Breitbart's site. In reality, he and the wiretap plotters had planned an elaborate scheme to dress up in costumes as phone company employees, lie to the staff about who they were, lie to them about the phones being broken (when they weren't), secretly capture that phony scenario on hidden recording devices, release the doctored scenario on video tape on Breitbart's site where they would be picked up and run in the media (and not just Fox "News," but likely even the legitimate media), as if it all represented anything resembling reality.

That was the same scam --- phony situation, lies to interviewees, secret recording devices to capture their reactions --- that O'Keefe successfully ran with his hoax ACORN "investigations," which were subsequently reported endlessly by Breitbart, Fox, and the legitimate media as if they represented reality.

During his ACORN hit-jobs, O'Keefe also violated the wiretap laws in several states where it is illegal to make secret recordings of such conversations.

One of those states was California, where O'Keefe ended up striking a deal with the Attorney General during his investigation of the videos, to turn over the unedited version of the audio and video tapes in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution under the state's "Invasion of Privacy Act," (CA Penal Code 630 - 638), also known as "California's Wiretap Act." The Attorney General Jerry Brown's investigation utlimately found what every other official has found when investigating O'Keefe's phony ACORN tapes: they were highly-doctored to show something that didn't actually happen, no ACORN employees are seen violating any criminal laws, and O'Keefe himself was the only one who actually did, vis a vis his secret wiretaps of employees.

Louisiana is not one of the twelve states whose wiretap laws require consent of all parties, though federal law would likely take precedence in the case of Landrieu's office since that would be federal property. Federal law permits recording as long as one of the parties consent.

But illegal or not, what is clear from today's FBI announcement, is that O'Keefe did plan to secretly wiretap the conversations of federal officials, working for a U.S. Senator on federal property, as initially reported by a number of media outlets immediately after the arrests.

So will all of those "liberal media" outlets who were so quick to correct the record in regard to their accurately reported "plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office" --- the same outlets who have still not issued corrections for their inaccurate reports on O'Keefe's ACORN scam, in which they erroneously reported that he dressed as, and/or represented himself as a pimp when meeting with ACORN employees (he never did) --- now report that O'Keefe was, in fact, according to the FBI, attempting to wiretap conversations of federal employees in the office of a U.S. Senator?

Will L.A. County's shameful Republican blogger, Breitbart Boy, and L.A. County Dep. District Attorney Patrick "Patterico" Frey (who should understand what the word "wiretap" means, particularly in his state of California) correct his own record as he demanded from others?

Don't hold your breath for any such corrections or retractions. As The BRAD BLOG has painstakingly demonstrated, that only happens when media get an aspect of the story wrong which adversely affects Republicans.

* * *

UPDATE 11:01pm PT: Wow. The hapless L.A. County Deputy D.A. Patrick Frey, aka pseudonymous wingnut blogger "Patterico," aka the Pride of Los Angeles, has stepped on the rake even quicker than usual, in his amusing attempt to rebut this article.

After his first persuasive argument that: "This is a fucking lie, and Brad Friedman is a fucking liar," the Deputy D.A. who ought to know better goes on to misinform:

A “wiretap” is defined as “a concealed listening or recording device connected to a communications circuit.” That definition does not apply to a simple undercover video sting — and Brad Friedman knows it.

Now here's the classic Patty-Steps-on-Rake part. The very link that this genius crime fighter apologist uses on the words "defined as" link to a definition of "wiretap" from the "The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company," from which Patty has selectively quoted.

What other definition does that very same page offer for the definition of "wiretap"?

To install a concealed listening or recording device or use it to monitor communications.

Swoosh - DOINK!!!

Keep up the bad work, Deputy D.A.! You may wanna put some ice on that thing. (Oh, then please go review the CA Wiretap Act which, theoretically, you are supposed to be spending your time enforcing, rather than apologizing in pseudonymous blog posts for federal criminals. The statute's linked above for ya. You're welcome.)

UPDATE 5/28/10 11:39am PT: One more followup, since Patty has swung and missed yet again. But as this post is already long enough at this point, please see my comment below for the details...

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