DOJ letter listing subpoenaed reporters did not name NYT journalist

DOJ letter listing subpoenaed reporters did not name NYT journalist
© Getty Images

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 WydenTrump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Trump administration proposes tariffs on .4B in French goods Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law 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 SessionsRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Iowa GOP lawmaker calls flying of trans flag above Capitol an act of the 'Rainbow Jihad' 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.