U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detained James O’Keefe in Montreal last month and interviewed the investigative journalist for an hour and quizzed him about the business model for his company, the nature of his next project, and whether he supports Donald Trump for president.
O’Keefe’s July 14 stop by Customs agents in Montreal was the muckraker’s fifth since last year, when he dressed up as Osama bin Laden and successfully crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S.
The video caused a stir as it indicated that the southern border is not secure. Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain even cited it during a Senate hearing. O’Keefe says he had never been detained by Customs until he released that video, which has received more than 1 million hits on YouTube.
After landing in Montreal on the way back from Greece, O’Keefe was directed to an agent who asked him what he does for a living. O’Keefe, who recorded the conversation and others that followed, said that he is a journalist.
“Maybe you passed the border before in a disguise?” the officer asked, seemingly referencing the bin Laden costume.
O’Keefe says he was then taken into a separate room and quizzed by four Customs agents.
U.S. Customs Agent: So you’re a reporter for who?
James O’Keefe: I started my own media company. It’s called Project Veritas and we do sort of investigative documentary films exposing hypocrisy and corruption.
U.S. Customs Officer Ms. Blaire-Bechstead: Within the government, within big corporate companies?
James O’Keefe: Mostly within the government, actually.
U.S. Customs Officer Blaire-Bechstead: So you’re like a shock…like a shock reporter? You basically go to the extremes to prove a point?
James O’Keefe: I wouldn’t put it in that regard, but that’s one description you could use.
U.S. Customs Officer Ms. Blaire-Bechstead: Well, yeah. Well, no, I’m just trying to wrap my head around exactly what your point is to get across…
O’Keefe was asked by another officer whether he was recording his interviews that day. The officer is heard telling O’Keefe that he had a “hit” placed on him because Customs and Border Protection was worried that he might try to smuggle something past them during one of his undercover investigations.
“We don’t search you then we get screwed because we didn’t do our job,” a Customs officer is heard saying. “I feel that the reason why they put that hit on you — they don’t want you to pull a fast one on us.”
Another Customs officer is heard asking O’Keefe about the upcoming election, including whether he plans to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. O’Keefe said he was perplexed by the question and unable to answer.
Customs Officer Mr. Creelman: Would you really support Trump as a nominee?
James O’Keefe: I cant, I can’t even…
Officer Creelman: Who do you want it to be?
James O’Keefe: I don’t really endorse politicians, for, you know, anything.
It is unclear from the recording whether those particular questions were part of the probe or mere small talk.
O’Keefe was stopped for a sixth time on July 24 while passing through Customs in Seattle. During a short interview, a Customs agent is heard asking him whether he had made the news “for the whole southern border stuff.”
In narration for the Project Veritas video, O’Keefe says he was able to get a look at the computer screen that showed that the agents were looking at a screen which characterized him as an “amateur reporter engaged in publicity stunts.”
“And that’s what prompted the agent to say ‘did you make the news recently?'” O’Keefe narrated.
“So now we have confirmation that they are actually looking at a screen that tells them the journalism that we’ve done and shows that they are retaliating against us.”
“Pretty unbelievable stuff.”