The New York Times has reported that federal investigators have seized email and phone records from national security writer Ali Watkins on Thursday, June 7th. Now, press freedom groups and news organizations are condemning the move, calling it an intrusion into the freedom of the press. The Justice Department seized files from Watkins’ office after news broke that she had a three-year-long affair with retired Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe, who was arraigned in federal court on Friday for lying to the FBI about his communications with numerous journalists.
According to the New York Times, Ali Watkins had disclosed this relationship to the publication when she was hired and did not use him as a source for her reporting. Questions linger about a Buzzfeed article, penned by Watkins, that revealed Russian operatives tried to recruit Carter Page as part of its efforts to undermine the 2016 US elections. The reporting was supplied with leaked information from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wolfe maintains that he did lie to the FBI but that he never disclosed information related to his Senate Intelligence Committee work.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement calling the Justice Department’s actions “a fundamental threat to press freedom.” The New York Times called the seizure in its own statement “an outrageous overreach.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on the charges against Wolfe, claiming that he is “a very important leaker” and that his arrest would be “terrific”.