Kurtz: Arrest of Senate Intel Staffer, Seizure of NYT Reporter's Records Will Have 'Chilling Effect'
Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz said Friday that the arrest of a veteran Senate Intelligence Committee staffer and the seizure of a New York Times reporter's records will have a "chilling effect" on journalists.
James A. Wolfe, 58, was indicted for allegedly giving false statements to the FBI about his contacts with three reporters and for lying about giving two reporters non-public information about committee matters. As security director, Wolfe was responsible for maintaining classified information.
Wolfe was allegedly in contact Ali Watkins, with whom he also had a three-year romantic relationship. Watkins, who now works for the New York Times and formerly worked for Buzzfeed and Politico, had her email and phone records seized by federal investigators who are looking into leaks of classified information from the committee.
Kurtz said the importance of the case cannot be overstated and could lead to some reporters' sources "drying up."
"It's a real classic chilling effect. ... It's a crime to leak classified information. At the same time, journalists rely on these leaks to get what they think is important information," said the "MediaBuzz" host, noting that some of the communications with Wolfe were through encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal.
Katie Pavlich agreed on "America's Newsroom" that the government has every right to prosecute people for leaking classified information, but at the same time reporters have a "valid reason to be concerned" about how the government goes about seizing reporters' electronic information.
Watkins' byline appeared on an April 2017 BuzzFeed article that revealed Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.
The indictment alleges Watkins and Wolfe spoke on the phone for about seven minutes shortly after the piece was published.
Watch the analysis above and tune in Sunday at 11:00am ET for more on this story on MediaBuzz.