TSA Agent Miffed Over Right Winger’s ‘Expose’

           BRONX, N.Y. (CN) – A Transportation Security Administration worker claims in court that right-wing activist James O’Keefe defamed him in a video accusing him of drinking and driving when he actually chugged a “diet Snapple iced tea, containing no alcohol.”
     O’Keefe, who considers himself a journalist, has been in legal hot water before for misleadingly splicing footage to make it appear that he’s caught government workers engaged in misconduct.
     In 2013, O’Keefe settled an invasion of privacy lawsuit brought by an ACORN employee caught on video purportedly providing advice about smuggling underage prostitutes into the United States. Project Veritas calls California’s invasion of privacy law “constitutionally questionable and arcane” and wants to see it modernized for the smartphone era.
     He pleaded guilty three years earlier to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under false pretenses, namely the offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu – a Louisiana Democrat whom O’Keefe targeted for her support of the Affordable Care Act.
     In this latest litigation, O’Keefe stands accused of defaming TSA employee Agustin Maldonado in a video shot on May 19 of this year.
     O’Keefe’s investigative outfit Project Veritas trailed Maldonado as the young worker drove home from his job at JFK airport with his brother-in-law in the passenger seat.
     Posted on the conservative website The Daily Caller, the video shows O’Keefe spotting Maldonado taking a swig from an unidentified beverage and pulling up next to Maldonado’s car to quiz him about its contents.
     “You got a black bag around your beverage,” O’Keefe shouts through the window. “What are you doing drinking alcohol? We saw you.”
     “Huh,” a confused Maldonado replies in the footage.
     “Are you drinking alcohol?” O’Keefe persists.
     At this point, Maldonado’s passenger chimes in, “No, he’s not drinking alcohol.”
     After some crosstalk, Maldonado drives away and O’Keefe pursues him while declaring the investigation a success on camera.
     ”I think we just got him admitting that he’s drinking,” O’Keefe concludes. “He said he was drinking before.”
     Maldonado notes in his lawsuit that he never made any such an admission in the video.
     Nevertheless, O’Keefe blasted out the footage under the headline “Uniformed TSA Agent Caught Drinking While Driving.”
     The Daily Caller, which is not a party to the lawsuit, told readers that it “could not independently confirm” O’Keefe’s supposed scoop.
     Maldonado says that’s because the allegation was “false.”
     O’Keefe and his self-styled investigative team “misquote, misconstrue and omit portions” of Maldonado’s statements to fit their narrative, and his coverage “could not in any way be considered journalism due to defendants’ wanton disregard for the truth,” the lawsuit says.
     On June 9, the Department of Homeland Security started internally investigating Maldonado because of the footage, he says.
     “As a result of the investigation, the plaintiff potentially could be terminated from his employment, demoted in position, suffer a wage sanction and/or be subject to other administrative and monetary penalties,” the 14-page complaint says.
     O’Keefe never notified police about what they saw, but simply used the footage to “promote defendants’ agenda,” according to the complaint.
     Maldonado wants a Bronx County Supreme Court judge to order O’Keefe and Veritas to take the footage off the Internet and pay him punitive damages.
     He is represented by Manhattan-based attorney Edward Perez, who told Courthouse News the TSA’s probe into the video remains ongoing and Maldonado’s colleagues have teased him about the video.
     “It’s almost like good-natured ribbing from colleagues, but you never know what people think,” he said. “That’s where the damage comes in.”
     Perez added that O’Keefe “seems to have an agenda that he makes a priority over anyone’s personal privacy” and “a history of stretching facts to create a story.”

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