James Wolfe, the former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, is accused of lying to the FBI amid an investigation over leaks of classified information.
James Wolfe, the longtime security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been arrested on charges of lying to the FBI in a case targeting leaks of classified information.
The DOJ alleges that Wolfe, in his official capacity in December, lied to FBI agents about his contacts with three reporters and made false statements about whether he gave "nonpublic information" to two reporters, a department press release said. As security director for the Senate Intel Committee for nearly 30 years, Wolfe had access to classified secret and top secret information, according to the DOJ.
Wolfe has denied giving classified information to reporters. He is expected to appear in court on Friday.
Prosecutors obtained several years' worth of email and phone data belonging to a New York Times reporter as part of their investigation. That reporter, Ali Watkins, had been in a three-year relationship with Wolfe, The Times reported Thursday night.
The newspaper says this is the first publicly known example of the Justice Department obtaining a reporter's data under President Donald Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously said the DOJ planned to ratchet up its crackdown on internal leaks, which have been among Trump's chief complaints since before he took office.
During a press conference last year, Sessions said the Justice Department was "reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas," asserting that reporters' abilities to disclose information had to be weighed against national security concerns.
Sessions continued at the time:
"We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law-abiding Americans."
Sessions' remarks in 2017 earned him some criticism from press-freedom advocates who had been sounding the alarm over the Trump administration's public hostilities toward reporters and news organizations.
Speaking on the matter of Wolfe's arrest and indictment Thursday night,John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said, "Those entrusted with sensitive information must discharge their duties with honesty and integrity, and that includes telling the truth to law enforcement."
The US attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, also weighed in, saying she hoped the charges against Wolfe would "be a warning to those who might lie to law enforcement to the detriment of the United States."
A charge of lying to federal law enforcement carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison if a person is convicted.