Prison Ahead for Senate Aide Who Gave Secrets to NYT Lover

DOJ investigating ex Senate Intel staffer for leaking information

Wolfe, who worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee for almost three decades, was arrested late Thursday and charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about information he revealed to multiple reporters.

The FBI said he gave false statements to agents "about his repeated contacts with three reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications".

Wolfe had worked under leadership of both parties since 1987, before abruptly departing the senate panel at the end of 2017. He retired last month. He will have to appear in D.C. District Court on Tuesday afternoon. 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.

Per the filing, Wolfe told "Reporter #3" on October 16 that he served Page with a subpoena, and the next day agreed to the reporter's request to provide Page's contact information. A few weeks later, "REPORTER #2" published an online article that revealed the identity of "MALE-1".

Grieve, who joined McClatchy after Watkins left the company, said he did not know whether Watkins used Wolfe as a source in her stories.

Wolfe is accused of using the same messaging app to serve as an unnamed source for a third reporter, and of communicating with a fourth reporter using his Senate email account from 2015 to 2017.

But these issues are not relevant to the government's interest in the matter - and any sense that the federal agents are going after a specific reporter could be deeply chilling to a free press.

The charges should serve as a warning to those who consider lying to law enforcement, said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

On April 3, Watkins, then a reporter for BuzzFeed News, authored a story that revealed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had been in contact with at least one Russian spy working undercover in NY in 2013.

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During that time, Watkins was part of a team of three reporters that produced stories about the intelligence committee's investigation of the CIA and its "enhanced interrogation" or torture program.

Coulson also ordered Wolfe not to access or discuss classified information with undisclosed people, not to possess a personal identification other than his own, and to make weekly check-ins with authorities - all were stipulations of release requested by the federal prosecutor, Phil Selden.

Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz said Friday that the arrest of a veteran Senate Intelligence Committee staffer and the seizure of a New York Times reporter's records will have a "chilling effect" on journalists.

Investigators obtained email and phone records for the pair allegedly showing "tens of thousands of electronic communications", including a text message from Wolfe that read in part: "I've watched your career take off even before you ever had a career in journalism".

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made cracking down on leaks and leakers a major priority.

In early 2013, for example, the Obama DOJ led by Attorney General Eric Holder secretly obtained the home and cell phone numbers of individual AP journalists, in what the news agency called a "serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news".

"Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges", MacDougall added.

Watkins denied that Wolfe was a source of classified information when they were dating, and says she disclosed the relationship to her editors at BuzzFeed News, Politico, and the New York Times at the time.

Many journalists consider reviews of their records by law enforcement to identify sources as an intrusion on their First Amendment protections.

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