Senate Intel Committee veteran arrested for lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation

10 June, 2018, 08:23 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • A former security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee was indicted on charges of giving false statements to FBI

A longtime US Senate staffer was arrested late Thursday on charges of lying to federal agents as part of an investigation related to the unauthorized disclosure of non-public information, according to a federal indictment.

James Wolfe's indictment was announced Thursday after the Times revealed the department had secretly seized phone records and emails from reporter Ali Watkins.

The Wolfe case is also significant because, as the Times noted, "Mr. Wolfe's case led to the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter's data under President Trump". Last year, she refused to answer questions from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about her relationship with Wolfe and denied that he was a source for her articles.

Watkins wasn't working for the Times at the time.

Wolfe's indictment alleges that Watkins and Wolfe had a romantic relationship dating back to 2013, when Watkins was a college student and intern with a news organization in Washington.

The Senate by unanimous consent agreed to aid the Justice Department in its leak investigation earlier this week.

The McClatchy Senate reporting was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting that went to the Washington Post. If he violates those conditions, Coulson said Wolfe could face additional prison time.

It's clear from the context of the indictment that Watkins was the author of one story the FBI was investigating to determine who served as her source or sources.

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

Wolfe abruptly departed the senate panel at the end of 2017 where he worked under leadership of both parties since 1987, reported CNN. "I strongly agree with the president and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks", he said.

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.

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.

Watkins' attorney, Mark MacDougall, had described the seizure as "disconcerting".

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In an April 2013 tweet, Watkins also tweeted about the fictional Netflix television show "House of Cards", where a young reporter has an affair with an older member of Congress.

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.

Wolfe allegedly was in contact with the reporter and exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications and often daily phone calls, according to the indictment.

Podobnyy, who was later charged by the US government for his undercover spying, described Page as "an idiot" who provided him with documents on the USA energy business, according to a phone call transcript included in the USA court filing viewed by Buzzfeed.

The indictment does not identify the reporters. However, we trust the justice system to act appropriately and ensure due process as this case unfolds.

Concerning the leaks, Watkins had blamed "trumpster lawyers", but it seems all roads are pointing to her boyfriend.

Wolfe officially retired from the committee staff last month.

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

Last August, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice had already received nearly as many "criminal referrals involving unauthorized disclosures of classified information" as had been received in the last three years. Other means of obtaining the information have to be explored first under these procedures. He said he was still getting details on the case.

Leaders of various other outlets spoke out about the government's seizure of Watkins' records.

McCabe's giving information to the Wall Street Journal is not in dispute. Finally, there is a question whether Watkins was notified in a timely way of the surveillance.

Wolfe's identity had been previously undisclosed, but the Senate had quietly passed a resolution Wednesday evening authorizing lawmakers to provide the Justice Department with documents in connection to the investigation.

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