4 Held In Alleged Plot To Wiretap Senator's Office

Watergate redux?

Details are sketchy, but here's what we know:

James O'Keefe, the conservative activist/filmmaker who posed as a pimp in a video that resulted in serious embarrassment for ACORN, the community organizing group, was among four people arrested yesterday in New Orleans in an attempt to illegally tamper with the phones in the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D).

Also arrested was Robert Flanagan, the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel (also arrested) showed up at Landrieu's office pretending to be telephone repairmen while O'Keefe was already in the office, recording the events with his cell phone.

According to the office of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, which announced the arrests, Flanagan and Basel "requested access to the telephone closet because they needed to perform work on the main telephone system." The three men were later arrested by the FBI. A fourth person, Stan Dai, was also arrested, for being part of the planning of the operation.

Here are the details of the alleged scheme, as per David Hammer of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Here is the government's affidavit detailing the charges against O'Keefe and the others, courtesy the Talking Points Memo blog.

Right now, this is the only response from Landrieu's office, attributable to communications director Aaron Saunders:

Because the details of yesterday's incident are part of an ongoing investigation by federal authorities, our office cannot comment at this time.

O'Keefe became a national conservative celebrity last year when, dressed as a pimp and accompanied by a young woman dressed as a prostitute, he entered an ACORN office and taped employees there offering advice on how he and his partner could get away with running an international prostitution scheme.

An AP account of last year's incident, repeated here in the Huffington Post blog, notes that O'Keefe "managed to do what Republicans have been trying to do for years — hurt the political affiliates of ACORN, which have registered hundreds of thousands of voters in urban and other poor areas of the country. By producing undercover videos shot in ACORN offices, O'Keefe brought a firestorm of criticism that the group was helping its low-income clients break the law."

The incident was part of the reason Congress gave back in September in blocking previously-approved federal funds from going to the group.

As for yesterday's arrests, the attorney for Robert Flanagan — asked for what could have been his client's motivation — said, "I think it was poor judgment. I don't think there was any intent or motive to commit a crime."

Of course. It was just a third-rate phone tampering.

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