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The New York Times was ordered to return internal documents to the conservative activist group Project Veritas by a New York state judge on Friday, a restriction the newspaper claims violate decades of First Amendment safeguards.
The New York Times was ordered by Justice Charles Wood of the Westchester County Supreme Court to return any physical copies of legal memos created by one of Project Veritas’ lawyers to the organization and to destroy electronic versions.
Last month, Wood issued a temporary restraining order against the New York Times, which drew condemnation from proponents of press freedom. Project Veritas, directed by James O’Keefe, has utilized dubious tactics such as secret audio recording to show what it calls leftist media bias, according to critics. A Justice Department investigation is underway investigating the group’s probable involvement in the theft of a journal from President Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley, the contents of which were published on a right-wing website.
Project Veritas took issue with a New York Times piece published Nov. 11 that claimed to disclose how the group worked with its lawyers to “assess how far its misleading reporting techniques can go before running afoul of federal regulations. “The Project Veritas legal documents were not a subject of public importance, according to Wood, and the organization has a right to keep them private that overrides concerns about press freedom.
“Steadfast fidelity to, and vigilance in protecting First Amendment freedoms cannot be permitted to abrogate the fundamental protections of attorney-client privilege or the basic right to privacy,” Wood wrote.