According to reporting this week by The Federalist, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been spying on journalists with Project Veritas using secret warrants issued by the federal district court in Manhattan.
Project Veritas has reported that six magistrates with the court have issued “secret warrants, orders and a subpoena” used to covertly surveil at least eight of the organization’s journalists. Those secret orders have allegedly been issued without the oversight of the Special Master appointed to protect the outlet’s constitutional rights.
Documents obtained by Project Veritas from Microsoft show the DOJ has obtained access to the emails and sources of the journalists.
The court granted “unchecked” access to the private information belonging to Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe and the other journalists. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert B. Sobelman alleged that the government had probable cause to believe that the firm’s email accounts contain “evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of crime.” The applications allegedly claimed “probable cause” without evidence.
Project Veritas stated that it believes the DOJ “spying campaign” is another example of federal overreach in reaction to the outlet’s reporting the diary of Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden.
The search orders obtained by DOJ all included non-disclosure provisions that concealed them from Project Veritas, the public and even other federal judges. Microsoft complied with the orders by turning over emails, covering more than a year of communications, to the DOJ for its inspection.
After the court disregarded previous orders that required the expiration of the non-disclosure provisions, Microsoft entered an objection with the court. It claimed that the investigation of Project Veritas was already public knowledge and there was no evidence that the media outlet was attempting to destroy evidence. The court eventually rescinded the non-disclosure provisions, and Microsoft provided notice of the surveillance to Project Veritas.
As part of the publicly-known investigation of Project Veritas, the federal court had appointed Special Master Barbara Jones to oversee the government’s investigation to ensure the protection of the rights of Project Veritas and its staff. Project Veritas now alleges that the information it has obtained shows that the DOJ circumvented Jones by seeking non-disclosure orders.
Project Veritas says that the DOJ has improperly obtained almost 150,000 documents and the contact information of more than one thousand confidential sources. It filed a motion with the court this week to order the DOJ to cease its spying activities into the organization.
Project Veritas attorney Paul Calli wrote in the motion that the government also obtained legally privileged attorney-client communications. The motion also alleges that the DOJ “misled the Court by omission.” A hearing on the motion has not yet been scheduled.