Joseph Basel: Phone-tapping suspect and former U of M-Morris conservative editor


A man arrested for his involvement in a bungled Watergate-style phone-tapping of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office was once the editor of a monthly conservative publication at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Joseph Basel, 24, was arrested in connection with the bizarre incident, in which he and several accomplices--including James O'Keefe, the filmmaker who dressed up as a pimp for a video expose of ACORN--masqueraded as telephone repairmen and gained access to the phone in Landrieu's New Orleans office.

"This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff," Landrieu said in a statement. "I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."

Basel was one of three founders of The Counterweight, a monthly conservative publication at University of Minnesota-Morris.

According to the FBI affidavit, Basel was one of the fake telephone repairmen involved in the strange stunt and quickly copped to being a phony as soon as the authorities put the heat on him.

At 11 a.m., Basel entered the Hale Boggs building with his associate, Robert Flanagan, dressed up as telephone repairmen with hard hats and tool belts. They went to Senator Landrieu's 10th floor office, where they found O'Keefe waiting.

Basel asked for access to the phone, manipulated it, tried to call it from a cell phone and said he couldn't get through. Basel and Flanagan said they'd have to fix it.

They were directed to the main office, where their credentials were requested. They claimed they "had left their credentials in their vehicle."

According to the New York Times, they are claiming it was some kind of media stunt gone wrong rather than a genuine attempt to wiretap a senator:

"There is no wiretap allegation," said J. Garrison Jordan, the lawyer who represented Mr. Flanagan at a bond hearing, where the men were all released on $10,000 bonds. He declined to give specifics, saying that he had not had much time to talk with Mr. Flanagan.

"In general terms," Mr. Jordan said, "I think it was a bad stunt that they pulled, and they exercised very poor judgment."

USA Today says Basel and other suspects have been released on Bond:

Leaving the jail with Basel and Dai, O'Keefe said only, "Veritas," the Latin word for truth.

Here is Joe Basel writing at the U of M-Morris about conservative issues. You can see from the headshot (right) it's the same guy.

He was on the Campus Resource and Planning Committee, where he expressed concerns about keeping the budget under control in these campus minutes.

Here's a picture of Basel when he founded the Counterweight as a strapping young conservative. He's the one in the center, wearing the "Mr. Wonderful" t-shirt:

Joseph Basel: Phone-tapping suspect and former U of M-Morris conservative editor

This is his Facebook page. He's listed as an '08 graduate of University of Minnesota-Morris, and his friends include fellow suspects Dai and O'Keefe.

His fanpages include the Teaparty Patriots and Sam Basel Real Estate, based in Colorado, which would seem to be a relative's business. Sam says:

I grew up in Wisconsin and I am a loyal Packer and Badger Fan.

Basel emerged through the world of conservative campus journalism, according to this Media Matters report:

Both O'Keefe and Basel seem to have gotten their start in the conservative college press with a little bit of help from the Leadership Institute, the group that aims to recruit and train conservative activists.

In an interview with the two men posted Jan. 14 on the Leadership Institute's, it's noted that O'Keefe founded The Centurion at Rutgers and Basel launched The Counterweight at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Both "were started with assistance from the Leadership Institute's 'Balance in Media' grant."

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