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Politics Justice Dept. considered relationship between reporter and source before secretly seeking records

01:50  14 june  2018
01:50  14 june  2018 Source:   msn.com

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer indicted on lying to FBI about classified documents

  Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer indicted on lying to FBI about classified documents A veteran staffer of the Senate Intelligence Committee has been charged in an illegal disclosure of classified documents probe. Charges against 58-year-old James Wolfe, the committee’s former Director of Security, come as the Senate agreed to give the Justice Department unspecified documents from the intelligence group as part of a federal investigation. Wolf worked with the committee for 31 years and retired in May, according to reports.A grand jury handed down the indictment, which details dozens of his messages with journalists. He is accused of making alleged false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

They called a reporter a criminal “co-conspirator” and secretly went after journalists’ phone records in a bid to identify reporters ’ sources . Watkins told the Times that Wolfe was “not a source of classified information” for her during their relationship . Before joining the Times, Watkins worked at

The Department of Justice informed Times reporter Ali Watkins in February that it had secretly obtained years of her communication records “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and we believe that communications between journalists and their sources demand protection

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post

As top Justice Department officials considered whether they could secretly subpoena the records of a national-security reporter to advance a leak investigation, they homed in on the reporter’s romantic relationship with a man they believed to be her source, two people familiar with the matter said.

In normal circumstances, they would have to notify the reporter of the subpoena before they used it. But Justice Department leaders worried that if they told Ali Watkins of their intentions, she might tip off the man, a former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, or take other steps that would upend the investigation, according to one of the people who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.

Justice Dept. Seizes Times Reporter’s Email and Phone Records in Leak Investigation

  Justice Dept. Seizes Times Reporter’s Email and Phone Records in Leak Investigation Federal prosecutors seized the records as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information to the news media by a former Senate aide.WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.

The constitutional implications of governmental interference in the relationship between reporters and their sources have been recognized at least since Since then, Department of Justice guidelines have required government agents to exhaust alternative sources before seeking to compel

The Justice Department seized Watkins’ records as part of an investigation into her confidential sources . In 2013, during the Obama administration, it was revealed that the Justice Department secretly obtained access to a Fox News reporter ’s In Targeting Times Reporter , Justice Dept .

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Prosecutors ultimately obtained phone and email records for Watkins, 26, who now works at the New York Times, without telling her — a move that generated a firestorm of controversy when it finally became public last week, as the FBI arrested James A. Wolfe, 57, her former boyfriend.

Mark J. MacDougall, Watkins’s lawyer, declined to comment.

Free-press advocates asserted that the aggressive tactic seemed to violate Justice Department policies that require reporters be given a heads-up when their materials are about to be seized. The Justice Department countered that officials had followed the guidelines, which do contain a provision allowing prosecutors to skip giving notice if it would “pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

Ex-Senate aide charged with lying about reporter contacts, in court in Baltimore Friday

  Ex-Senate aide charged with lying about reporter contacts, in court in Baltimore Friday <p>James A. Wolfe was indicted on three false statement counts.</p>Load Error

At the same time, the admission of a personal relationship between the reporter and the source raised questions about journalistic ethics. Despite all the dots connected by the Justice Dept . after hoovering up email and phone records of four reporters , none of the charges brought against Wolfe

The embedded relationships between AP reporters and the US military during bombing missions The Associated Press has accused the Justice Department of a 'massive and unprecedented intrusion' after it secretly obtained two Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before , but

At a court hearing Wednesday, Wolfe pleaded not guilty to lying to the FBI, which was investigating leaks of classified information to the press. His attorneys said that, to ensure a fair trial, they were likely to ask a judge for a gag order, citing unspecified statements by Justice Department officials and “glib remarks” by President Trump that “prejudged Mr. Wolfe.”

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Jeffrey A. Rambo, approached Watkins last summer and questioned her about her reporting and how she developed information, according to people familiar with the matter. Rambo also asked Watkins, then a reporter at Politico, about her relationship with Wolfe and gave her accurate dates and destinations for two trips the pair had taken together overseas.

A law enforcement official familiar with the case said Rambo was not working with those investigating Wolfe. CBP, part of the Department of Homeland Security, is primarily responsible for securing the country’s borders and is not typically involved in government leaks investigations.

In charging Senate staffer and seizing reporter’s records, Justice Dept. ignites debate over leak crackdown

  In charging Senate staffer and seizing reporter’s records, Justice Dept. ignites debate over leak crackdown Critics worry that the moves will have a chilling effect on newsgathering.As the man charged in the brewing controversy made his first court appearance, free-press advocates warned that federal prosecutors’ heavy-handed tactics might send a further chill through the government, where officials already are reluctant to share information.

NEW YORK –- The Associated Press revealed Monday that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of reporter and editor phone records from the s Regulations, Williams stated, require DOJ to make "every reasonable effort" to obtain information another way before considering

Justice Dept . actions signal fresh effort to stop leaks. They called a reporter a criminal “co-conspirator” and secretly went after journalists’ phone records in a bid to identify reporters ’ sources .

Some lawmakers reacted with alarm to revelations that a law enforcement officer questioned Watkins about her reporting and seemed to have had access to her travel records.

Two top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said in a letter Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and her predecessor, current White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, that Rambo’s “alleged misconduct is deeply troubling.”

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.) asked if Rambo’s actions were authorized by any DHS official, and if Rambo or other officials approached more journalists about their sources. They said if Rambo violated privacy laws to obtain Watkins’s travel records, it could “constitute a criminal act.”

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported it was reviewing Watkins’s work history, including “the nature of her relationship with Mr. Wolfe, and what she disclosed about it to her prior employers.”

Before coming to the Times, Watkins covered the Senate Intelligence Committee for BuzzFeed and Politico, and her relationship with Wolfe seems to push the boundaries of journalism ethics. Though Watkins has denied to the Times that Wolfe was ever a source of classified information during their relationship, Wolfe sent at least one text in December 2017 suggesting he was at least a tipster.

Press Groups Criticize the Seizing of a Times Reporter’s Records

  Press Groups Criticize the Seizing of a Times Reporter’s Records The Trump administration took possession of a journalist’s email and phone records as part of a leak investigation.The Committee to Protect Journalists called the move “a fundamental threat to press freedom.” The Times, in its own statement, called the seizure “an outrageous overreach” and raised concerns about a chilling effect on journalists’ ability to report on the government.

'UNPRECEDENTED INTRUSION': Justice Department Secretly Obtains Months Of AP Reporter Phone Records . Such a broad government seizure of phone records could hurt AP reporters ' relationships with confidential sources who provide information off the record .

Federal prosecutors secretly obtained two months' worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists in what the news agency described Monday as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” The Justice Department notified the AP on Friday that it had subpoenaed the records

“I always tried to give you as much information that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else,” he wrote, prosecutors alleged in an indictment.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, has been left to battle criticism from free-press advocates, even as prosecutors try to push forward a criminal case against Wolfe. In addition to giving a reporter notice of a subpoena, the department is supposed to make “all reasonable alternative attempts” to find the same information elsewhere.

One person close to the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wolfe’s phone seemed to provide all prosecutors needed to bring the indictment they did against the former security director. The Justice Department sought information on Watkins dating back to her time as a college student.

Wolfe ultimately was charged with lying to the FBI — not disclosing classified information. According to the indictment, investigators looking into “multiple unauthorized disclosures of classified information to one or more members of the news media” asked him about his contacts with reporters, and he misled them.

The indictment described Wolfe’s interactions with four reporters, although Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said prosecutors did not issue subpoenas for materials on any of the other three.

New York Times Examines Work History of Reporter in Leak Case

  New York Times Examines Work History of Reporter in Leak Case The Times said that it was reviewing Ali Watkins’s involvement in the case, including her relationship with James Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide.The New York Times is reviewing the work history of Ali Watkins, a Washington-based reporter at the newspaper whose email and phone records were seized by prosecutors in a leak investigation case that has prompted an outcry among press advocates.

In a sweeping and unusual move, the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone But experts said the scope of the records secretly seized from the AP and its reporters goes In most cases when investigators seek information about a media organization’s source , the

The Department of Justice informed Times reporter Ali Watkins in February that it had secretly obtained years of her communication records “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and we believe that communications between journalists and their sources demand protection

The indictment alleges that Wolfe told investigators in a December interview that he had “no official or professional contact with reporters,” and he also claimed not to have a personal relationship with any reporters. Both statements proved problematic.

Wolfe, according to the indictment, engaged in a years-long relationship with Watkins, and the two exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications from mid-2014 to about December 2017.

Watkins was approached by the FBI in late 2017 about her relationship with Wolfe, and she was notified, retroactively, in February about the subpoena of her records. On the day Wolfe was arrested, Watkins notified the New York Times of that subpoena. A spokeswoman for the newspaper said she did not do so earlier after conferring with her personal lawyer.

Watkins had told the Times and Politico about her relationship with Wolfe. She informed Times editors after she was hired but before she began work, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Wednesday. At Politico, she did so only after the incident in which Rambo approached her.

Rambo is now facing an internal investigation after The Post first asked CBP this week about his interactions with Watkins.

matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

shane.harris@washpost.com

jack.gillum@washpost.com

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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