The New York Times is crying foul on the Trump regime for taking a reporter's email and phone records in the name of stopping leaks involving the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation of Trump and Russia.
Federal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.
The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.
Investigators sought Ms. Watkins’s information as part of an inquiry into whether James A. Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, disclosed classified secrets to reporters. F.B.I. agents approached Ms. Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks.
News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.
A prosecutor notified Ms. Watkins on Feb. 13 that the Justice Department had years of customer records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies, including Google and Verizon, for two email accounts and a phone number of hers. Investigators did not obtain the content of the messages themselves. The Times learned on Thursday of the letter, which came from the national security division of the United States attorney’s office in Washington.
The records covered years’ worth of Ms. Watkins’s communications before she joined The Times in late 2017 to cover federal law enforcement. During a seven-month period last year for which prosecutors sought additional phone records, she worked for Buzzfeed News and then Politico reporting on national security.
Shortly before she began working at The Times, Ms. Watkins was approached by the F.B.I. agents, who asserted that Mr. Wolfe had helped her with articles while they were dating. She did not answer their questions. Mr. Wolfe was not a source of classified information for Ms. Watkins during their relationship, she said.
Mr. Wolfe stopped performing committee work in December and retired in May.
Ms. Watkins said she told editors at Buzzfeed News and Politico about it and continued to cover national security, including the committee’s work. Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed News, said in a statement, “We’re deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government.”
1) Couldn't resist that dig on Obama, could you, NY Times? Even after you know Trump and Jeff Sessions was demonstrably worse and far more sinister towards the media, you just have to continue to blame the black guy, huh? Bet you wish he was back, assholes.
2) A reporter should never, ever, ever, get romantically involved with a goddamn source, or somebody later used as a source. That's journalism ethics 101, guys.
3) You do know that Watkins and Wolfe are being served up as a warning now that Mueller is closing in, right? Keep you eyes on who the bad guy really is here. (Hint: it's not Barack Obama.)
Conservatives: If you were pissed when Obama wiretapped a reporter, you should be furious now https://t.co/MyJQ3TiYG8— Evan Siegfried (@evansiegfried) June 8, 2018
5) Wolfe is going to prison. Watkins probably isn't. Probably. I guess it's going to take Trump tossing reporters in jail before they understand the problem here isn't Obama, but whatever.