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.