Updated: March 13, 2012, 9:46 PM
A video posted to the YouTube account of Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has sparked an investigation by the U.S. Marshals Service into why a videographer accompanying the New York Republican was allowed to film inside private residences against a federal policy.
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, a tweet from King’s account linked to an eight minute video of a ride-along with a “fugitive task force” including U.S. marshals on Monday. It showed King, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, joining police as they broke down doors and arrested a suspected fugitive. The video carried the logo of the “Manhunters” reality TV show and featured one of its stars, marshals commander Lenny DePaul.
After TPM made inquiries about the video with King’s office, it was marked “private” and no longer available to the public on YouTube. Later, the video was removed from YouTube entirely.
A shorter version, with almost a minute of footage cut out, was posted later in the day, and tweeted from King’s account. Clips of an officer kicking in a door, a joke about how King “got” a suspect and an officer describing to King how he kicked someone, perhaps the suspect, off a ladder were cut out.
But even the new video features shots that appear to have been filmed within the confines of a private residence in violation of federal policy.
“The policy restrictions which prohibit individuals who are not U.S. Marshals employees or Task Force Officers from filming inside a private residence are intended to be in place during all ride-alongs,” U.S. Marshals spokesman Jeff Carter told TPM in a statement. “We are currently investigating this matter to determine exactly what happened in this instance.”
King’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Criminal defense attorney Bruce Barket, from King’s home area of Long Island, N.Y., watched the unedited video, which TPM obtained from King’s YouTube page before it was removed, and said it could be a problem for law enforcement, particularly since it was edited.
“It turns out maybe more often than not that the camera is not the policeman’s friend, so I find it curious that agents would say, come along, witness congressman, and bring your video crew so you can observe us engaging in whatever conduct we’re engaging in,” Barket said. “The fact that they’ve edited some raises some questions about what they were doing.”
He also said it’s almost unheard of to have somebody of the congressman’s profile tagging along with a fugitive task force.
“Somebody accompanying them is rare,” Barket said. “Somebody accompanying them with a video camera is very rare.”
Barket also questioned King’s attire. “Why was he wearing a police coat and a badge?” he said. “I’m just searching for a legitimate reason why he’d be wearing a badge and a coat like that. If you did it, you’d be arrested for impersonating a police officer.”
King’s accompanying camera crew may not fit the traditional definition of “press,” but a Justice Department policy written long before handheld video devices and YouTube banned media ride-alongs during search and arrest warrant raids. The 1993 DOJ policy was instituted after a cameraman tipped off a mailman who was also a Branch Davidian about the upcoming and subsequently famous raid in Waco, as Politico’s Josh Gerstein wrote in 2009. The subsequent raid and siege left 76 members of the Branch Davidians and four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) dead.
Late update: King’s spokesman Kevin Fogarty didn’t respond to TPM’s requests for comment but offered this quote to the Wall Street Journal: “Congressman King was invited by the US Marshals to accompany them in a series of raids and everything was done in compliance with their procedures.”
Here’s the original video posted on King’s YouTube account, which TPM grabbed before it was pulled down:
This is the shortened version they posted later on Tuesday afternoon:
And here are the tweets from King’s account: