Why You Don’t Spy in Federal Buildings

I haven’t said much about about the James O’Keefe case, but there is something about it that no one is talking about, especially on the Right.

According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, two of O’Keefe’s associates entered Senator Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans and tried to pass themselves off as phone company employees. They were wearing phone-company-type work clothes, including hard hats, and told office workers they were there to fix problems with the phone system. O’Keefe was already sitting in the office, saying he was waiting for someone else to arrive. When the associates showed up, O’Keefe began recording them with his cell phone.

One of the two “workmen,” Joseph Basel, requested access to the phones. He was allowed access to the phone on the front desk, and according to a witness he took the handset off the phones and manipulated it somehow. Then he and the other “workman,” Robert Flanagan, made some show of calling back and forth with cell phones to show that the phone wasn’t working.

After that, Basel and Flanagan were taken to the GSA office where the main telephone lines could be accessed. It was at that time someone challenged their credentials, and when the two young men said their credentials were in their car, it was not long after that someone figured out the two guys did not work for the phone company.

Based on this, Basel and Flanagan were charged with entering a federal building under false and fraudulent pretenses for the purposes of interfering with a telephone system operated by the federal government, and O’Keefe and Stan Dai allegedly aided and abetted these acts.

Now, all four young men are innocent until proven guilty, and it is possible the affadavit is inaccurate. On the other hand, there is evidence that laws might have been broken, meaning there needs to be a trial. I understand O’Keefe was ordered to go live with his parents until the trial. I assume the other three are out on bail also.

Righties have whined incessantly ever since that it is somehow unfair for these four even to be charged with a crime. So much for the rule of law. Even if you accept the claim that the four were journalists working undercover to get a story, that doesn’t give them immunity from the law. I know journalists sometimes use subterfuge to do exposes of things like bad food handling practices in restaurants or phony massage parlors, but we’re talking about a federal building here. You know, the kind of place terrorists like to case and sometimes blow up.

No, I don’t think for a minute that the four clowns were terrorists. I suspect they were trying to stage something that would embarrass Senator Landrieu. Even so, we can’t be tolerant of people entering federal buildings, or any other potential terrorist target, under false and fraudulent pretenses, even if just for a prank. This is post-9/11 America, after all. If only out of courtesy to fellow citizens, you respect security protocols and don’t ask for them to be lifted just for you. When we start to make exceptions, security is weakened.

It’s way past time for people like Ben Stein to grow up. There are some things one doesn’t do, like yell “bomb” on an airplane, even if it’s a joke. And you don’t pull a stunt like this in a federal building and expect a pat on the head. I don’t think the boys deserve ten years in prison, but if they are found guilty of breaking federal law they should get enough of a sentence to discourage other “pranksters” from pulling stunts like this.

See also “Right-Wing Media Spin the Conservative Activist James O’Keefe’s Crime

26 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Spy in Federal Buildings

  1. Stan Dai wrote the satirical Penis Monologues ..when he gets to the big house he’s gonna be engaged in a not so comical face to penis dialog.

  2. Is Ben Stein for real?..He’s got to be kidding to write such a lame article..It’s like intended to persuade an idiot. The fact is that they are already convicted by their own admission that they entered a Federal building under false pretenses..It doesn’t get simpler than that!

    The only punishment they need is the conviction itself on their record. That would be sufficient punishment for their stupidity. O’Keefe( I’m bad) is playing it cool and trying to spin it as no big deal..it’s all under control, but deep down he’s probably shitting in his pants..You can never be to sure when your messing with the big dogs that you won’t be spending the next ten years in the big house.

  3. If these guys were Afghanis in 2002, they’d have spent the last 8 years in Gitmo, and people like Ben Stein would be calling them “the worst of the worst” and demanding they be tortured. Stupid white guys get all the breaks.

  4. “Ben Stein is a writer, actor, laywer, and economist living in Beverly hills and Malibu Ca.”
    Things are different in Ben Stein’s world.
    That song from the 70′ comes to mind:
    Bend me, shape me,
    any way you want
    ‘long as you love me its alright……..

  5. Wonder how ol’ Ben would feel if it had been someone coming into his office to fiddle around with the phones and likely look for things to smear his name with.
    In the comments on that Ben link, it was posted they were sent to a different prison than the local where they were arrested. IMHO that needs to stop. If all people were treated equal in our justice system, they would be sent the same place as everyone else and if there was unjust treatment, it would be more likely to be addressed. I couldn’t believe it when they had to renovate the prison BEFORE sending Martha Stewart to it. Some people seem to be less equal than others.

  6. If these guys were Afghanis in 2002, they’d have spent the last 8 years in Gitmo, and people like Ben Stein would be calling them “the worst of the worst” and demanding they be tortured. Stupid white guys get all the breaks.

    Sums it up perfectly for me.

  7. Given the current state of Republican social thought, these guys won’t face any social consequences for their actions, therefore they do need to experience some real jail time, maybe not 10 years but maybe 5 or so. Let them experience what prison means and why you want to avoid it.

  8. I disagree with Swami, who wrote: The only punishment they need is the conviction itself on their record.

    These twisted kids are junior ratfuckers in training. A mere conviction on their record – particularly if they manage to escape punishment – is seen as a badge of honor in their crowd, something to brag about to future GOP employers. (I’m sure I’m not the only one here who knew frat boys who laughed about getting into trouble with the cops). I want to see them do some serious jail time, especially if they show no remorse before the judge. If O’Keefe is typical – who shouted “Veritas!” as he was being led away – I think remorse is the last thing we’ll see from these punks.

    To Maha’s point – I hope staff in Federal buildings learn from this experience. They should never have made it as far into the building, messing with equipment, as far as they did. Some gatekeeper should have caught them much earlier without proper ID. I read a comment by someone in telecom, who said these kids were not really in proper costume – they looked more like guys who work outdoors on telephone poles, instead of techs working on interior equipment – but then this was a trained eye speaking.

    And of course, there’s the whole rightie hypocrisy about it all – IOKIYAR, and all that.

  9. Ben Stein is a gaping sphincter. To call O’Keefe a “journalist” is like calling Timothy McVeigh an “architect”. He is exactly the antithesis of a journalist. His goal is to make shit up and smear Democrats anyway that he can. This Black Panther story of Stein’s smells fishy too. There is no way that if these men made threats, real or implied, that they would have not been prosecuted. This story sounds as phony as the false “smokes for votes” allegations in Milwaukee that the Republicans tried to sell in 2000 to take attention away from the Supreme Court’s hijacking of the presidential election with the godawful Bush v. Gore decision.

  10. The point Stein seemed to be trying to make was that because: A. Eric Holder AG’s office dismissed charges against 3 (or was it 4? –accounts vary) men, claiming to be Black Panthers, who attempted to intimidate voters at the polls in the 2008 election, and B. the FBI’s arrest of those heroic, investigative journalists was in retaliation for their exposure of ACORN, then C. this was proof that the Justice Department was a tool of the Obama Administration, and we should all be afraid. Or something.

    I managed to get about a third of the way through the comments before I finally gave up. A couple of folks tried to give the case some serious thought, but mostly nobody seemed to care whether or not Stein’s post made sense. Sheesh.

  11. I think all four should be locked up awaiting trial. And I wouldn’t call them “boys’, I would call them “right wing hacks under federal indictment”. Ben Stein should stick to peddling free credit websites and selling his unattractive mug to whatever corporate schmuck wants to pay him. I don’t take anything Ben Stein says or writes seriously and wouldn’t waste my time listening to or reading anything he is involved in.

  12. Whenever a rightwinger tries to absolve these guys from their crimes, they bring up the expose of ACORN done by O’Keefe. Not mentioning how heavily the ACORN tape shown was doctored for it to look just the way they wanted it to look–not the way it actually was. No laws had been broken by ACORN, it only appeared that way because of the doctoring of the tape. To believe that they would have presented an honest version of their “findings” at Landrieu’s office is being a bit naive. Their intent was malicious and dishonest. It would make me angry if they get off with just a slap on the wrists. They need to serve some serious time.

  13. These twisted kids are junior ratfuckers in training.

    Wingnuts are always on the hunt for those dirty little nuggets of truthiness. It seems to be all they need to vindicate their entire faith. Who can forget when Kerry made that statement about college and Iraq war veterans? The nuts trying to skew and mantra-repeat that one into a comment scandal worse than all of Bush’s eleventy billion gaffes put together… So now we have a new generation of Segretti’s trying to create “grains of truth” which can be politically exploited. O’Keefe needs to be branded for what he is.

  14. I don’t understand why you all want to be soft on them. We are at war with the GOP, so we brand them ‘enemy combatents’ and ship them to a secret prison we don’t admit exists, waterboard them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, ’til they rat out Glenn Beck (even if he wasn’t involved), deny them habeus corpus and access to representation, which they don’t need since we never intend to try them anyhow, teach them stress postions, and tell Republicans in Congress – they are enrolled in a Yoga class.

  15. I could not resist snark – but seriously. In this kind of case, I put the shoe on the other foot. If it were liberal ‘journalists’ trying to get something on Bonner, would it be a ‘prank’ to Fox? And it wouldn’t be OK with me either – you don’t bug or otherwise mess with government phones – and it shouldn’t matter WHOSE phone it was or who the criminal is. I would LOVE to hear Holder say exactly that if/when they are charged – a declaration that ALL gov’t offices will be protected without preferance.

  16. I think they have seen the error of their way. Title 18 USC 2 makes them the Four Musketeers..All for one and one for all.

    According the the affidavit filed against them it looks like they don’t have much wiggle room in the court of law. They can spin for all it’s worth in the court of public opinion, but ultimately it’s a court of law that they’ll answer to. My assumption is that they face a felony conviction. That’s not a pleasant prospect considering that they will be dragging that behind them until they are firmly in their graves.

    What’s a young conservative to do without the ability to secure a concealed weapons permit? Or a professional license, or to vote? Not a good situation to be in… Back in 2008 when Bush granted his pardons, among them was a guy who was convicted of moonshining in 1960 …I wondered why someone after 48 years would still be concerned about removing a felony conviction from their record. I can only guess that for some reason it’s not an enjoyable experience even when the consequences of the conviction have long passed.

  17. I can’t imagine all of the anti-terror legislation ain’t gonna fry this guys ass. I don’t think the Feds know the term, “slap on the wrist”. It’ll be sweet, especially if the legislation was passed by the Patriot Act enabling Rupublican Congress of the Bush era. Hell, they might even make him go quail hunting with Unca Dick. But then again, he’ll be seen as a political prisoner and pull out the full Nelson Mandela bit. Hannity might even do his show in front of the prison he’s serving his time at, promising not to leave until O’Keefe has been set free.

  18. I hope that if the charges are true, and they’re proven guilty, that they go to jail.

    Then, their right-wing supporters can have monthly drives for “Soap-on-a-Rope!”
    You know, O’Keefe, playing a pimp for underage girls plays well for FOX and the other idiots in the media. But let me tell you, and I taught in maximum security prison for 3+ years, the best I can say is, playing one IN PRISON, is a whole other ball game.
    If he walks out of there just having just “Penis Dialogue’s (thanks, Swami!)” with every orifice on his body, he’ll be lucky. Many of these guys have young daughters, or neices, and let me tell you, they don’t abide child molestation – even if it’s for profit. He may never walk out of there alive…
    O’Keefer has the right to be scared. He’s earned it…

  19. he’s just a little acorn
    that fell off the family tree
    his dad’s a mighty oak
    so we’ll just wait and see

    this guy is pretty stupid
    what’s he trying to prove
    pimping might be easy
    spying is another groove

    they gotta get state charges
    then throw the book at them
    send their ass to Angola
    watch them sink or swim

    remember all the bullshit
    over the A.C.O.R.N. affair
    hell if you think about it
    there might be charges there

    hey this guy speaks latin
    could be a useful tool
    he can spout some verses
    while a convict packs his stool

  20. I hear O’Keefe and I ‘hear’ Timothy McVeigh, David Koresch (sp?) the Uni-bomber, Jim Jones…who did I leave out?

  21. O’Keefe’s a junior dirty trickster, and deserves to face trial, and probably hard time… but folks, let’s lay off with wishing prison rape on him, OK? That sort of authoritarian wrath is one part (of many) of why I don’t like 9/11 culture. It should be enough to expose him, dishonor him, discredit him, and take him off the streets for a few years.

  22. paradoctor . Nobody is wishing rape on O’keefe. We are just using the prison rape scenario to illustrate in the extreme a brutal power that O’keefe might have to contend with because he didn’t devote enough thought the power that could keep him safe. It seems the lad allowed the praises of his conservative audience to dull his wits…and as a consequence he’s now going to have to learn some new skills if his stupidity is rewarded with prison time.

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