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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 27, 2010

CONSERVATIVES FAIL IN WATERGATE LITE AGAINST DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

New Orleans Times-Picayune - Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. All four men were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senator's offices. He spoke on condition of anonymity because that information was not included in official arresting documents.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street on Monday about 11 a.m., dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th-floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive. When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affidavit, observed O'Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O'Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.

After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn't working. Flanagan did the same.

They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and Flanagan and Basel went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men's credentials. They said they left them in their vehicle.

The U.S. Marshal's Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.

Landrieu said: "This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff. The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."

Landrieu's Republican counterpart, Sen. David Vitter, called for a racketeering investigation against New Orleans-founded ACORN last year in the wake of O'Keefe's videos.

"I've seen the news reports and it's obvious this is a very serious matter. We're blessed with an extremely competent U.S. attorney's office in New Orleans, and I know they'll handle this as aggressively as they have other serious cases," Vitter said in a statement.

ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said the arrest calls O'Keefe's credibility into question, and used the opportunity to point out that he "edited (ACORN videos) to make things look as bad as possible." He said, for instance, that O'Keefe actually wore a normal dress shirt when he was in the ACORN offices, but spliced in shots of him dressed as a pimp in the final videos. But he also acknowledged that O'Keefe's undercover ACORN footage showed truly improper conduct by ACORN staff.

"ACORN's leadership and grassroots leaders have taken a whole series of steps, including commissioning an independent report that shows actually there wasn't illegal conduct by any of the ACORN employees involved, although we fired people involved for improper conduct," Whelan said. . .

According to the Phillips Foundation's Web site, Dai was the editor-in-chief of the GW Patriot, an alternative conservative student newspaper, when he attended The George Washington University in 2006. According to information Dai posted in September 2007 on the university's online alumni directory, he lived in Naperville, Ill., helped run a "Defense Department regional defense counterterrorism/irregular warfare program" and then became assistant director of the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University, which prepares undergraduates for careers in intelligence. On Tuesday at 4:40 p.m., O'Keefe, Dai and Basel were released from the jail and were waiting for a cab. . . .

Ernest A Canning, Brad Blog - On Nov. 12, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that separate House and Senate Resolutions to bar all funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) were unconstitutional bills of attainder.

The lawsuit directly pertained to House and Senate appropriations resolutions which singled out ACORN for a cut-off of federal funds. These were passed after videos emerged which purported to depict some ACORN employees giving advice to individuals posing as a prostitute and a pimp.

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger then issued an independent report, which found incidents of mismanagement by ACORN but "no criminal wrongdoing." CCR noted that Harshbarger, who reviewed the "complete transcripts," concluded that "the infamous videotapes had been doctored and fully misrepresented the actions of the workers shown."

On Dec. 11, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon granted ACORN's motion for a preliminary injunction, ruling that it was likely ACORN would prevail on the merits of its claim that the House and Senate Appropriations Resolutions were unconstitutional bills of attainder.

Although no doubt fully aware of ACORN's pending lawsuit, the House and Senate enacted an amalgam of six separate bills, which the President signed into law on Dec. 16. The act contains a virtually identical provision to cut-off ACORN from federal funds. ACORN responded by filing a motion to expand the preliminary injunction to the FY 2010 consolidated appropriations act.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, James O'Keefe, who posed as the pimp in the ACORN sting video, along with three others, was arrested and "charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony," in relation to an alleged plot to tamper with the telephone system in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).


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