Officials at a university where an employee was captured by an undercover journalist agreeing to start a pro-ISIS club on campus charge the sting operation was “sinful” and probably illegal.
Sister Linda Bevilacqua, the president of Barry University, said in a statement the “intimation or implication that our university would approve or condone the formal establishment of such a group could be regarded as not just shameful but sinful.”
WND reported the work of Project Veritas, the investigative organization begun by James O’Keefe to out organizational corruption and dishonesty.
O’Keefe released this week a video showing a Barry University official embracing a proposal to host a pro-ISIS club at the Miami campus.
The video, part of the Project Veritas College Investigation Tour, opens with the narrative: “We told administrators we wanted to start a pro-ISIS club. Our investigator is actually an honor student at the university.”
A man identified as Derek Bley, coordinator for leadership development and student organizations at the campus, appears on the video to offer to help the undercover student, named Laura.
Laura then says she wants to know the steps to forming a club on campus.
She says: “I wanted to start a like humanitarian club on campus. Do you think the name’s OK? I mean, because I don’t want it to be like too political. Like for students, Sympathetic Students in support of the Islamic State. … I want to start fundraising efforts on campus and what I want to do is raise funds to send overseas.”
She then asks: “You know, do you think that’s OK … to call it that or what would you recommend?”
Bley mulls out loud: “It doesn’t have Barry University in there.”
But he then agrees that taking out the ISIS reference in the title might be better because of the terrorist connection.
The statement from the university said the news story is “categorically false.”
“It is immensely hurtful to our university community, to the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, who founded and continue to sponsor Barry University, and to the international members of the Dominican Order who have suffered as a result of the violence created by ISIS.”
The school president continued: “Barry University does not and never will allow or authorize the formation of an ISIS-related humanitarian aid group on campus. There has been no formation of any such group at Barry University. No paper work requesting such an organization has ever been filed with the proper authorities at the university.”
She said the “images and video released were edited and spliced to unfairly represent the university and staff being featured.”
“It is reprehensible to think any organization would acquire video and edit in such a way as to denigrate the reputation of Barry University or its staff.”
Separately, the school contacted WND asking that the video be removed because it “may violate Florida law in that the subject employees were not aware they were being recorded and did not give consent.”
Project Veritas stood by its work.
“Project Veritas’ video recordings at Barry University were accomplished within the spirit and letter of the law. In Florida, where Barry University is located and where the recordings took place, it is perfectly legal to record an oral communication if a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is defined in Fla. Stat. 934.02(2),” a group spokesman explained.
“In this instance, Project Veritas recorded its operation in an open-office atrium, where office doors were open, where people were passing by in close proximity, and Barry University administrators took no steps to secure their privacy, thus, the recording is legal because it meets both statutory and case law requirements.”
The statement continued: “See Fla. Stat. 934.03, Fla. Stat 934.02(2) which defines oral communications and the Florida Appeals Court’s interpretation of the law. See Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services v. Edwards, 654 So.2d 628 (Fla. App. 1st Dist 1995) Fla. Stat. 934.02(2): ‘Oral communication’ means any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation and does not mean any public oral communication uttered at a public meeting or any electronic communication.'”
Regarding the accusation that the video was spliced and edited, school officials could not be reached by WND immediately for comment. Nor could a comment be obtained on the claim the taping “may” be illegal.
But even its supporters weren’t buying the accusation of editing.
On the school website, Manny Santana wrote: “I understand your position and appreciate your response, but the fact is the video shows those on your staff that clearly might not share your same views out of political correctness. I truly hope that actions are taken to control and correct those staff members.”
And Mike Viall asked: “This video is NOT a representation of the people in the video? The ones agreeing to help Hamas fighters with flashlights and ‘care packages’? Please explain.”
A third, Doc Washburn, wrote: “The video clearly shows four of your employees recommending that your student should merely change the name of her proposed group to hide the fact that she was attempting to raise money for ISIS. Your denying the clear evidence is disappointing. As to your contention that the video was edited to try to paint a false impression of what your employees said, what will you do if O’Keefe releases unedited video? Be careful what you wish for.”
John Salzano wrote: “Sister Linda I understand that you are embarrassed by this video, and you should be, I am now embarrassed to say my daughter attends Barry University. If the video was spliced or not, it clearly shows there are some or many individuals in your administration that do not share our Catholic values. … Based on what we saw on the video some or many of your administrators are embracing moral relativism, this contradicts truth. I understand your school welcomes students and administrators from many faiths, and no faith, but they should all recognize that they are attending a Catholic college.”
In the video, Laura cites the U.S. State Department line of thought that terrorists need jobs and economic boosts to prevent them from becoming radicalized.
So can the club start?
“Yeah, we’re not here to limit people and their clubs,” Bley said, the video shows. “If there is a demand or a need, or an interest that students have to do this, we’re here to support that. So, but I would recommend maybe coming up with one or two other possible names just in case this one does not get through.”
O’Keefe said of the undercover clip in a written statement on his group’s website: “It is disturbing to see our nation’s university system festooned with professors and administrators that are sympathetic to ISIS.”
The group just a few days earlier released a video of a Cornell University assistant dean telling an undercover Project Veritas videographer it was OK by him to start a pro-ISIS club on that campus.
Joseph Scaffido, assistant dean of students for student activities, said then, as reported by WND: “The university is not going to look at different groups and say you’re not allowed to support that group because we don’t believe in them or something like that. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the university wants the entire community to understand what’s going on in all parts of the world.”