A federal judge should not accept a proposal by Project Veritas to appoint a special master after FBI agents raided homes linked to the journalism group, U.S. government lawyers argued in a court filing on Friday.
After agents executed search warrants on several homes linked to Project Veritas, including a residence of founder James O’Keefe, the group’s lawyers asked a judge to appoint a special master, or a retired judge, to sift through material seized by federal agents and separate out certain files.
Agents seized cell phones and other electronic devices from O’Keefe and two former Project Veritas journalists earlier this month, according to court documents.
The raids were motivated by the apparent belief that the group committed crimes in its handling of a diary said to be penned by Ashley Biden, daughter of President Joe Biden. Project Veritas says it was given the diary last year, but passed it onto law enforcement when it could not verify its authenticity.
“The extraordinary actions taken by the government, most significantly the use of search warrants to seize news gathering materials from journalists, appear to be founded on the premise that the diary does belong to Ashley Biden. That fact, however, does not warrant the exercise of federal criminal authority to investigate and punish journalists who merely obtained the diary and possessed it temporarily,” lawyers for the group wrote in a motion to the court.
Even more troublesome, there were no limits imposed in the search warrants on the government’s access to material it seized, lawyers said, which enables it to access privileged material, whistleblower material, and material about news investigations.