An ex-Senate Intelligence Committee security director was arrested Tuesday for allegedly lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were investigating unauthorized intelligence leaks to reporters, the Justice Department revealed.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that March, "Ali Watkins, now a 22-year-old freelancer for McClatchy in Washington, D.C., received a tip from sources who came to trust her while making herself a presence on Capitol Hill, according to a posting by Temple's School of Media and Communication".
He is set to appear before a federal court in Washington today. One of them, Ali Watkins, a former BuzzFeed writer now working at The New York Times, had reported for BuzzFeed past year that Russian spies attempted to recruit former Trump aide Carter Page.
"From in or around mid-2014 through in or around December 2017, WOLFE and REPORTER #2 exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications", the Justice Department asserted in the indictment, "often including daily texts and phone calls, and they frequently met in person at a variety of locations including Hart Senate Office Building stairwells, restaurants, and REPORTER #2's apartment". The rules require government investigators to have "made all reasonable attempts to obtain the information from alternative, non-media sources" before they may go after reporters' records.
It's the first known case of DOJ seizing a reporter's records under the Trump administration.
"I have no knowledge", Wolfe said, when asked about a Justice Department investigation. Wolfe was arraigned in court Friday on charges of lying to investigators about his contact with journalists.
Watkins' student email records were among those seized by the FBI during the investigation of Wolfe.
Before she started at the Times, FBI agents sought information from her about a romantic relationship she had with Wolfe, but Watkins said she didn't answer those questions, which were part of an investigation into unauthorized leaks. Late past year, Sessions said the department had 27 open leak investigations - dwarfing what had also been a high number of leak probes pursued by the Obama administration.
In a previous case under the Obama administration, a New York Times reporter faced criminal charges over a news source, but the case was later dropped. If you use encrypted methods to talk to the press (or with sources), make sure you know how they actually work.
"Despite Wolfe's statements, Wolfe had, in truth, engaged in extensive contact with multiple reporters", the indictment reads. "The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosures of sensitive and confidential information". "Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges".
He allegedly revealed, on multiple occasions, classified information about the committee's investigation into allegations of collusion between members of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian interests seeking to influence the US election.
On Friday, Risen put out a statement in his new role as director of the First Look Press Freedom Defense Fund, calling the move against the Times reporter "an ominous step towards a more authoritarian apporach to the press by a White House that has already made it clear that it is at war with journalists who are performing the daily public service of keeping Americans informed".
The New York Times said in a statement last night that communications between journalists and their sources need to be protected, that that's part of a free press.
The reporters aren't named in the indictment.