James A. Wolfe, 57-year-old director of security with the Intelligence Committee, has just been officially charged with lying to investigators about his connection to news journalists. The Senate Intelligence Committee aide allegedly lied to the F.B.I. on multiple occasions about sharing classified information with reporters, and now civil rights advocates are deeply concerned about the government’s willingness to forgo privacy in an attempt to catch leakers within the administration.
Investigators were attempting to discover where information breeches were occurring, and over time, they discovered Mr. Wolfe had disclosed information on at least four occasions. One BuzzFeed article published back in 2017 contained classified information about the recruitment of a Trump foreign policy adviser by Russian spies. The F.B.I. probed the author, but she declined to reveal her sources. Later, the Justice Department seized her records to pinpoint her source.
They discovered the reporter was communicating with Mr. Wolfe through an encrypted messaging app, and she wasn’t the only one. After further probing, investigators determined Mr. Wolfe was contacting at least four other reporters with the inside scoop through the unidentified app.
Civil rights and privacy advocates are deeply disturbed by the Justice Department’s willingness to mine a news journalist’s data to determine their sources. One spokesman for the Times, Eileen Murphy, explains “freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy.”
Similarly, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, Ben Smith, describes how the company is “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.” Despite these concerns, the Justice Department has made it clear that prosecuting the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information is a top priority for the agency.