The seizure of a New York Times reporter’s email and phone records was not mentioned in a Justice Department letter addressing its use of law enforcement tools to collect journalists’ communications.
The letter, dated March 5, came in response to an October 2017 request by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSurely we can find, and stop, high-tech spies HHS enters damage-control mode over family separations Why everyone should agree to support recreation, not red tape MORE (D-Ore.) for the Justice Department to disclose how many times in the past five years it had used such tools.
The response from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd listed only two instances spanning from “January 2012 to the present” — one that seemed to refer to subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters in 2013, and the subpoenaing of former New York Times journalist James Risen to testify at a former CIA agent’s trial.
But nowhere in the letter, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News, did Boyd mention the seizure of New York Times reporter Ali Watkins’s email and phone records as part of a leak investigation into former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe.
Wolfe, 57, was arrested and charged last month with repeatedly lying to the FBI about his contacts with three journalists.
The seizure of Watkins’s records was made public in June. But Watkins was reportedly first notified in February of the move, meaning the seizure would appear to fall within the timeframe covered in Boyd’s letter.
The exact timeframe of the letter’s disclosures is unclear, particularly whether the “January 2012 to the present” label spans all the way to March 5, when the letter was dated, or refers to some earlier date.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment, and Wyden’s office declined to give comment to the news outlet.
The seizure of Watkins’ records has alarmed many in the media, who see it as an overly aggressive attempt by the Trump administration to intimidate journalists.
Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDetained immigrants describe hostility from US employees of detention centers Children are one of the ‘War on Drugs’ casualties Dems strategy on Trump pick: Unify around health care MORE vowed in a speech in August to crack down on government leaks that he said jeopardized national security. Wyden’s request for information was reportedly prompted by that speech, according to BuzzFeed.