Ex-Senate aide arrested for lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation about leaking to reporters

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As part of the probe, the DoJ seized years of records related to two email accounts and a phone number belonging to one Ali Watkins, reported NYT.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday that James A. Wolfe, of Ellicott City, Maryland, has been arrested and indicted on three counts of false statements.

While this is the first time that the Trump administration's Justice Department has aggressively gone after reporters' electronic communications, the Obama administration also pursued reporters' records during President Obama's first term.

The FBI asserted that Wolfe had helped Watkins with articles while they were dating but Watkins said Wolfe was not a source of classified information during their relationship, according to the Times. She began working for The New York Times late previous year, covering national security. On that day, the indictment states, Wolfe exchanged 82 text messages with Watkins and that evening had a 28-minute phone call with her. You can perhaps recall that back in 2013, the Justice Department seized phone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press. If he violates those conditions, Coulson said Wolfe could face additional prison time.

Yet, one person should be especially discomforted by the indictment: former Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeAct like a spy, talk like a spy, they'll call you an informant Draft of DOJ watchdog report says Comey defied authority: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by PhRMA - Primary results give both parties hopes for November MORE.

The US has fallen in the world press freedom index, dropping two places to 45th this year, continuing the downward trend experienced in the last few years. Last May, he told Russian officials about a classified ISIS plot which Israeli intelligence had shared with the US.

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But he added, "It's clearly inappropriate for a reporter to be in a relationship with a source and to be reporting on him".

Prosecutors allege Wolfe also had contact with three other journalists, referred to only as Reporter #1, Reporter #3, and Reporter #4 in the indictment. Sessions said that authorities were prepared to stop "the culture of leaking".

"Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy", said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

INSKEEP: Well, now we know of one of them.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to quash the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Watkins's attorney, Mark MacDougall, declined to comment. The relationship reportedly occurred when Watkins worked for BuzzFeed.

One of those scoops was said to be Watkins' story on April 3, 2017, for Buzzfeed News that revealed the FBI was investigating former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page because a Russian spy attempted to recruit him in 2013. The indictment of Wolfe noted that the investigation sought to learn how Watkins had learned that Russian spies had tried to recruit the former adviser, Carter Page. She broke that news in a Buzz Feed article 14 months ago.

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Based on the information in the indictment, REPORTER #2 is Watkins.

"Journalism major Ali Watkins spent some of her internship at McClatchy DC News hanging around elevators and locked doors - but not because she was idle".

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the Justice action sent "a awful message to the public and should never be considered except as the last resort in a truly essential investigation".

Watkins covered national security and law enforcement for Politico, including topics relating to China, worldwide espionage and Cuba.

Assistant Attorney General Demers said, "The Attorney General has stated that investigations and prosecutions of unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are a priority of the Department of Justice". Other means of obtaining the information have to be explored first under these procedures. "It's hard to imagine that the Justice Department did that in this case", Miller said. He is accused of making false statements to a government agency. "This is why we believe that the government's seizure of Ali Watkins's data sets a unsafe precedent". It's also not apparent why it was necessary to collect years' worth of sensitive information.

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