Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Ex-senior Senate aide indicted for lying to the FBI

‘DISCONCERTING’:The ‘New York Times’ revealed that the government had secretly seized the records of journalist Ali Watkins as part of a probe into leaks

AP, WASHINGTON

A former employee of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been arrested on charges of lying to the FBI about contacts he had with multiple reporters, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.

James Wolfe, the long-time director of security for the committee, was indicted on three false statement counts, with prosecutors saying that he misled agents about his relationships with reporters.

Although Wolfe was not charged with disclosing classified information, prosecutors said he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars, private residences and in a Senate office building.

He also maintained a years-long personal relationship with one reporter, which prosecutors said he lied about until being confronted with a photograph of him and the journalist.

Wolfe, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was yesterday due in court. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

Each false statement count is punishable by up to five years in prison, although if convicted, Wolfe would almost certainly face only a fraction of that time.

The criminal case arises from an FBI interview with Wolfe in December last year in which prosecutors said he was shown a news article that contained classified information and was authored by three journalists.

He checked “no” in a written questionnaire when asked if he had any contact with the reporters, even though records obtained by the government showed that he had been in contact with one of them.

He also denied having contact with other journalists when in fact he had communicated with other reporters, including over encrypted messaging applications.

After one journalist published a story about a witness who had been subpoenaed to appear before the committee, Wolfe wrote to say: “Good job!” and “I’m glad you got the scoop.”

The indictment was announced soon after the New York Times revealed that the US Department of Justice had secretly seized the telephone records and e-mails of one of its journalists, Ali Watkins, as part of the leak investigation involving Wolfe.

Watkins was approached by the FBI about a three-year relationship she had had with Wolfe while she worked at other publications, the newspaper said, adding that Watkins said Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her during their relationship.

In a statement on Thursday night, Watkins’ attorney, Mark MacDougall, said: “It’s always disconcerting when a journalist’s telephone records are obtained by the Justice Department — through a grand jury subpoena or other legal process. Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges.”

The prosecution comes amid a Trump administration crackdown on leaks of classified information.

Trump and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions have decried such disclosures, with Sessions in August last year saying that the number of criminal leak probes had more than tripled in the early months of the Trump administration.

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