Justice Department Seized New York Times Reporter's Phone, Email Records
- Author: Rogelio Becker Jun 11, 2018,
Jun 11, 2018, 1:08
Wolfe, of Ellicott City, Md., did not answer questions from reporters.
The Justice Department announced late Thursday that Wolfe has been indicted for allegedly lying to federal authorities about his relationships with three reporters.
If the manner by which the Justice Department pursued these records sounds familiar, it should: Something similar happened in 2013 when the Justice Department collected two months of phone records from Associated Press reporters to try to track down the source of a leak about a Central Intelligence Agency operation in Yemen.
"I'm a big, big believer in freedom of the press". It's a crime to leak classified information. "Has to remain classified".
Authorities said he also lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about providing two of the reporters with private information on the work of the committee, of which he was director of security for 29 years.
"Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges", MacDougall added.
It said Watkins had been in a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe.
In a follow-up email, Murphy noted that Watkins made the decision not to share the information of her surveillance with the Times after consulting with her attorney.
"Seizing a journalist's records sends a bad message to the public and should never be considered except as the last resort in a truly essential investigation", Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a statement.
He also said that though he saw journalists every day as part of his job, he never spoke to them about anything related to the committee. On Oct. 17, Reporter #3 asked Wolfe, using the encrypted messaging app Signal, to provide Page's contact information, and Wolfe obliged, according to the indictment. One particular text message sent by Wolfe read: "I've watched your career take off even before you ever had a career in journalism..."
The indictment details Wolfe's alleged contact with three reporters, whose identifies were not immediately revealed.
The indictment alleges Watkins and Wolfe spoke on the phone for about seven minutes shortly after the piece was published.
The Senate Intelligence Committee hinted at the leak investigations on Wednesday, noting that it was cooperating with the DOJ "in a pending investigation", while the Senate had earlier voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to share committee information with the DOJ "in connection with a pending investigation arising out of the unauthorized disclosure of information". He worked as security director for the Intelligence Committee, and his arrest appears to be part of the Trump administration's promised push to crack down on leakers.
Matthew Miller, the former chief spokesman for the Department of Justice under attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who had dramatically increased the number of leak investigations over prior administrations, said the department "went too far", in leak investigations, but that Holder then "put safeguards in place to prevent this from happening, except in the most exceptional cases".
Journalists previously raised alarms about the Obama administration's aggressive moves against reporters in leak investigations.
It is the first known instance in which the Trump administration has seized records from a journalist during the course of a leak investigation. The Justice Department amended its media guidelines in 2015 to make it more onerous for prosecutors to subpoena journalists for their sources, though officials in the past year have said they are reviewing those policies.