Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Trump Continues Obama's Pursuit of Leakers by Snooping on Media Contacts

Trump Continues Obama's Pursuit of Leakers by Snooping on Media Contacts

He is accused of making false statements to a government agency.

A former employee of the Senate intelligence committee appeared before a federal court in Maryland Friday after being arrested for lying to the FBI about contacts with multiple reporters.

Wolfe was charged with three counts of making false statements during an investigation of "the unauthorized disclosure of information, " which was endorsed by the entirety of the Senate. He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said past year that the DOJ was aggressively pursuing around three timx as many leak investigations as were open at the end of Obama's second term - while Obama's DOJ prosecuted more leaks than all previous administrations combined.

Wolfe, 57, made misleading statements to agents when they asked him about his previous contacts with several reporters, including one he had a personal relationship with between 2013 and 2017.

Wolfe "used his personal cell phone, his [Senate Intelligence Committee]-issued electronic mail account, and anonymizing messaging applications, including Signal and WhatsApp, to exchange electronic communications with reporters", prosecutors allege in the indictment. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have decried such disclosures, and announced a sharp increase in leak investigations. The newspaper said Watkins was approached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a three-year relationship she had had with Wolfe when she worked at other publications.

Wolfe will be processed Monday morning at the FBI's Washington field office, and appear at a hearing on the charges in US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Coulson ordered. "After WOLFE stated that he did not know about REPORTER #2's sources", the indictment reads, "FBI agents confronted WOLFE with pictures showing WOLFE together with REPORTER #2". Though it doesn't say so explicitly, the indictment does suggest that the Wolfe investigation was launched after officials noticed classified information was being given to members of the press, NBC News reported.

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". Burr and Warner added that the Wolfe case will "in no way" interfere with the committee's ongoing probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 USA election.

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Media watchdog groups expressed alarm Friday over the seizing of a journalist's records as part of a probe into intelligence leaks resulting in the indictment of a congressional staffer.

Watkins reportedly had a relationship with Wolfe but claims he was not a source of information.

Wolfe had been the committee's security director for almost 30 years.

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.

As part of its Wolfe investigation, investigators secretly seized a New York Times reporter's phone and email records, the newspaper said on Friday. Still, the newspaper criticized it, saying a reporter's communications with sources should be protected.

She added that the Justice Department's actions "will endanger reporters' ability to promise confidentiality to their sources and, ultimately, undermine the ability of a free press to shine a much needed light on government actions". "This should be a grave concern to anyone who cares about an informed citizenry".

Another of Watkins' former employers also faulted the Justice Department's conduct.

Under Obama, the Justice Department subpoenaed the telephone records of AP journalists as investigators pursued a leak.

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