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January 27, 2010

Wiretapping and/or covert recording at Landrieu's office

Defenders of the four men who admit they scammed their way into Sen. Mary Landrieu's office and tried to tamper with her telephone are claiming that the guys were just checking her phone system to make sure that she hadn't "done something" to her telephones to make it easier for her to ignore constituents who were calling to complain about her stance on health care reform. This technology does exist. We call it voicemail.

The affidavit doesn't specify exactly what James O'Keefe, Robert Flanagan, Joseph Basel, and Stan Dai intended to do with Mary Landrieu's federally-owned phone system. It just alleges that they planned on "maliciously interfering" with it. Bugging is a time honored way of interfering with the phones of politicians.

Robert Flanagan's lawyer swears up and down that his client wasn't trying to wiretap the phone. That's nice. He can say whatever he wants to the press. Let's see what he says in court. O'Keefe's lawyer won't say why his client was at the office, or whether he was working for someone else.

The affidavit is just the first step. It's a summary of the evidence the feds needed to arrest these guys. It's not even an indictment. The state's allegations will probably come into sharper focus later on.

When they first arrived, "repairmen" Basel and Flanagan played with the phone at the reception desk for a bit while O'Keefe filmed them on his cell phone. Basel called--or pretended to call--the reception phone with his cell. He announced that it didn't work.

Up until this point it seems like the guys might have been trying to expose Mary Landrieu's purportedly scandalous voicemail system. Riveting teevee for the over-80 set, I'm sure.

The phony repairmen headed for the main telephone cabinet, but they were stopped by a GSA employee who refused to believe the old "left our credentials in the truck" excuse.

What on earth were they looking for in the main cabinet? Anyone who could diagnose how Landrieu screens her calls by glancing in the main cabinet presumably knows enough about phones to place a wiretap.

A federal law enforcement official told the AP that Stan Dai was arrested in a car near Landrieu's office with electronic listening equipment. That equipment isn't mentioned in the affidavit. I called the US Attorney's office to ask why not, but they said they couldn't offer any further comment because the case is ongoing. 

Maybe the accused perps are the only ones who know what they intended to do with Landrieu's telephones. The thing is, they were busted before they could do much of anything.

The FBI agent already had more than enough evidence to charge the men: based on eyewitness accounts and their confessions. The affidavit was sworn just hours after the incident. You can't say more in an affidavit than you can swear to under oath. When the special agent signed the affidavit, law enforcement officials may not have examined the equipment closely enough to draw firm conclusions about how the suspects intended to use it.

Besides which, these four wouldn't be the first privileged, well-connected individuals to be charged with lesser crimes than the evidence against them would appear to support. Robert Flanagan's father is an acting U.S. Attorney in Shreveport. It would be much more politically embarrassing for him if his son was implicated in an attempted wiretapping of a Louisiana senator's office, as opposed to a dumbass right wing video stunt.

The affidavit indicates that the suspects confessed immediately. (Somehow, I doubt enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary.) The authorities may have rewarded them for their ready cooperation by not digging too deeply into their motives for spelunking in Landrieu's phone cabinet.

Just because the affidavit doesn't use the word "wiretapping" doesn't mean that the men aren't suspected of wiretapping. They're innocent of everything until proven guilty. But wiretapping seems like a more plausible motive for trying to get into the main phone cabinet than exposing suspicious call waiting practices.

Comments

They could have been checking what type of equipment would be needed to tap her phone system, with the intention of bringing that equipment on a second visit.

You're still lying. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone wiretapped anything, bugged anything, or ever intended to. It's not claimed in the affidavit and none of the four are charged with it. You're just making it up.

Here you go:

https://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2010/01/27/2187074.aspx

"A law enforcement official says the four men arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls."

Stop lying.

CTD -

According to the anonymous law enforcement official who is the source for that article, they were planning to turn off her phones. That is also a crime.

"That is, the official says, what led the four men to pull this stunt -- to see how the local staffers would react if the phones went out. Would the staff just laugh it off, or would they express great concern that local folks couldn't get through?"

Oh CTD, I guess that makes it ok to commit crimes.

What was the van full of listening equipment for? Children's birthday parties?

Mary Landrieu should clearly volunteer to discourage any criminal charges in favor of a bipartisan commission of Louisiana Republicans to suggest a better way forward.

Jaffa, Weaseldog -

Can you point to where I said that it was "ok to commit crimes" or that no crime was committed? My point is that Lindsay continues to make up stories about "wiretapping" and "bugging," with zero evidence, even when it's become obvious that whatever was going on in the office wasn't some KGB-style bug planting.

CTD, it's not obvious.

Why purchase and bring listening equipment if you're not listening?

Do you know what listening equipment is used for?

If you do, why do you consider that having the tools in their possession to bug an office, counts as zero evidence?

"Why purchase and bring listening equipment if you're not listening?"

The "listening device" claim is solely from an anonymously-sourced nola.com article. You amusingly transformed it into a "van full of listening equipment". Somebody likes their crime dramas, don't they? Listening device can mean a lot of things. It could be that one of the four was wired for sound. It could have been a bluetooth device. Or a parabolic mic to try and record audio of what was going on in the office. I don't know, and neither do you or Lindsay. The difference is that you made the logical leap into X-Files electronic bugging territory, absent any scrap of evidence.

"why do you consider that having the tools in their possession to bug an office, counts as zero evidence?"

Again, I ask where are you getting this "tools... to bug an office" from? Aside from a single vague, anonymous claim in a news report of a "listening" device?

CTD, you could be right. After all, I did exaggerate a little, and that has the power to alter reality. So because of my comments, they were never charged, right?

It could be that they wanted access to the switch, because they wanted to sabotage it? They may not have been installing a bug at all. so they may have intended to commit criminal mischief.

Perhaps they had thought of other felonies to commit?

In another comment, you make it clear that you don't know what listening equipment is or what it is used for. We'll probably have trouble discussing this topic until you learn something about this gear and what it is used for.

CTD-

Listening device can mean a lot of things.

So you come home unexpectedly one afternoon to find your wife and some guy naked in your bed and you'll believe them when they say he's just the local gynecologist making a house call and that he usually works naked.

Look, since you seem to be an honest guy I'll do you a favor: Contact me via Lindsay and I can get you a bridge going for a super low fire sale price.

The "Li'l Buggers" would seem to have made a mistake quite befitting dim-witted Young Republican punks too callow and ignorant to recall the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) swine from the Watergate incident. Or perhaps not- Charles “Chuck” Colson and G. Gordon Liddy parlayed their felonies into very successful careers as neofascist blowhards. These junior CREEPs are already heroes among the brain-eating zombie set that comprise your typical latter day “conservatives”.

James O'Keefe struck pay dirt with his ACORN video. It was the ideal instrument to get the wingnut dogs baying. He shows us a chubby black woman ACORN employee with more cleavage than we need to see and enough knowledge of legal minutia to know how to perpetrate crime but stupid enough to advise a “pimp” on how to do so. You know, something like the colored fellow that's in the White House right now. Then Mr. O'Keefe throws some meat to the hounds, working them up to a racist frenzy, barking and slobbering from their flews, in the form of him prancing around in a pimp getup right out of 'Superfly'. James O'Keefe. Remember the name; he's a young man on the way up. He's got a real shot at the conservative pantheon.

CTD, technically, Flanagan's dad is a "law enforcement official", so without the name I wouldn't take the anonymous quote seriously.

You know who's a law enforcement official? Flanagan's dad.

There are a couple of stretches both in the main post and the comments. From the main post: "Anyone who could diagnose how Landrieu screens her calls by glancing in the main cabinet presumably knows enough about phones to place a wiretap." And...? Knowing something and doing something are two different things. I'm sure anyone who could diagnose your brake problem (say, your mechanic) presumably knows enough about brakes to know how to cut the line, thereby disabling them. It's still unethical, illogical, and irresponsible to accuse him of doing so unless you actually have evidence that the brake lines were cut.

Eric, you make a pretty large jump by saying that the accused were "planning to turn off her phones." That's NOT what the article says. It says the men "wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative." That's consistent with what was stated in the affidavit--that they tried (or pretended to try) to call the Senator's phone from cell phones and said they couldn't get through. The article says absolutely nothing regarding an intent on their part to actually turn them off. That's an assumption you made. They may or may not have intended to actually turn off the system, but if they were looking for a reaction, they simply could have--and did--say the phones were inoperative.

CTD is correct in that the "listening device" comes from a sketchy source, and could mean anything. Certainly, if there was a "listening device" there must have been a "transmitting device" if we're talking about wiretapping. I have to think that the accused were searched THOROUGHLY upon arrest, and that any type of transmitting device would have been found, and mentioned in the FBI affidavit. Until I see a more reliable source for the listening device information, including what the device was, I'll reserve judgment on that issue.

cfrost makes a rather vivid comparison about finding your wife in bed naked, but it's a bad analogy. Since none of us here have any direct knowledge of said listening device or what it was used for, a more apt analogy would have been to say "you read an anonymous note from someone who claims to have seen a strange man exiting your house when you were gone." Not quite as obvious what was going on anymore, is it? Maybe it was a repairman. Maybe the mail carrier. Maybe the person who wrote the note was lying, or mistaken. Again, I think we need more definitive information before we can be as sure as cfrost seems to be.

It's clear these men committed a crime in entering a government building under false pretenses. They themselves have admitted to as much. It's another thing to jump to the conclusion that they were going to plant wiretapping equipment. The crimes have vastly different punishments. Section 1036 of the USC provides up to 10 years of prison time if one enters govt. property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony, but only up to 6 months in other cases (i.e. without that intent). Big difference. The felony for which they would have to prove intent in this case would be the wiretapping. Unless there actually WAS wiretapping equipment found on those who entered, I think intent would be almost impossible to prove. (And if they didn't find the equipment, that would make a very strong case AGAINST intent to commit that felony, since wiretapping equipment would seem to be a requisite part of intent to wiretap.)

I'm all for punishing those who break the law, but I'm NOT okay with sending someone to prison for 10 years for something he didn't actually do. So let's not jump to conclusions and let's see how the case unfolds.

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