The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Sunday warned against the potential consequences of the Justice Department‘s recent raids of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe‘s residence and the residences of his associates.
“Project Veritas has engaged in disgraceful deceptions, and reasonable observers might not consider their activities to be journalism at all,” the ACLU said in a statement. “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,” the ACLU continued.
“We urge the court to appoint a special master to ensure that law enforcement officers review only those materials that were lawfully seized and that are directly relevant to a legitimate criminal investigation,” the organization added.
The FBI reportedly raided O’Keefe and his associates because of Ashley Biden’s alleged diary, which ended up in the hands of Project Veritas last fall, though the organization decided against publishing it and turned it over to law enforcement. Ashley Biden is a daughter of President Biden.
On Thursday, District Court Judge Analisa Torres from the Southern District of New York ordered the DOJ to halt the extraction of information from O’Keefe’s phones, which were confiscated by the FBI. The judge also granted the request from O’Keefe’s legal team for an independent “special master” to be appointed to oversee the review of his devices.
The ACLU’s statement echoed objections raised by First Amendment experts who recently spoke to Politico.
Politico quoted University of Minnesota law professor Jane Kirtley, a former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who described the raids as “just beyond belief.”
“I’m not a big fan of Project Veritas, but this is just over the top. I hope they get a serious reprimand from the court because I think this is just wrong,” Kirtley said.
Speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity about the raid last week, O’Keefe said, “I’ve heard ‘the process is the punishment.’ I didn’t really understand what that meant until this weekend. And Sean, I wouldn’t wish this on any journalist.”