The New York Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times (NYT) “improperly” obtained internal memos from activist Project Veritas, which were reportedly seized by the FBI in a search last month, and ordered it to return them.

“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,” wrote Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood, according to Reuters, Dec. 24. 

Accordingly, Wood ruled, “That the defendant New York Times and its agents, employees, legal counsel, or other persons under its control are directed to immediately delete/destroy copies of the legal memoranda prepared by Project Veritas’ counsel, Benjamin Barr, from any computer, cloud server or other data collecting or disseminating sources.” 

Wood gave the NYT up to 10 days to confirm compliance with the court’s order. However, the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, said the newspaper would appeal the ruling.

For her part, Project Veritas attorney Libby Locke considered that with the ruling, the Court confirms that the behavior of the New York Times was “irregular.”

“The New York Times has long forgotten the meaning of the journalism it claims to espouse, and has instead become a vehicle for the prosecution of a partisan political agenda,” Locke said, according to Reuters.

The information obtained by the media alludes to “typical, garden variety, basic attorney-client advice that undoubtedly is given at nearly every major media outlet in America, including between the Times and its own counsel,” described Wood, adding that it is not of public interest.

However, this data was released in an attempt to uncover Project Veritas’ journalistic practices, and while it is unknown how it reached the NYT, some believe it was through the FBI, which searched the offices of activist researchers. 

In fact, the founder and CEO of the investigative group Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, reported on Nov. 5 that the FBI and the Southern District of New York raided the homes of his journalists following the alleged theft of the diary of Ashley Biden, the daughter of U.S. President Joe Biden, by unknown persons.

The FBI apparently intervened in the case following a report by a Biden family member that several belongings were stolen from Ashley Biden’s car, according to a report in the New York Times.

If this belief is true, the FBI could also become involved in the investigation for the alleged illegality of the delivery of the documents to third parties.  

In this regard, the NYT mentioned that it got to the data through “newsgathering efforts,” eluding “any explanation” of how it came into possession of it, according to the ruling. However, it admitted that “no apparent bribery… was used to obtain the memoranda” in this case.

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