WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A longtime staffer of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee was arrested on Thursday on charges of lying to FBI agents investigating the illegal disclosure of classified information, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said.
James Wolfe, who worked for the committee as director of security for about 29 years, allegedly lied to FBI agents in December about his contacts with three reporters, U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said in a statement.
As director of security, Wolfe, 58, was responsible for safeguarding all classified information in the committee’s possession, the statement said.
Wolfe, a Maryland resident, was expected to make his first court appearance on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Wolfe could not be contacted for comment.
The FBI was conducting a criminal investigation “into multiple unauthorised disclosures of classified information to one or more members of the news media,” according to the indictment.
As part of the investigation into Wolfe, federal law enforcement officials secretly seized a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records, the newspaper said.
The reporter, Ali Watkins, had previously had a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe, who stopped performing work for the Intelligence Committee in December and retired in May, the Times said.
The FBI asserted that Wolfe had helped Watkins with articles while they were dating but Watkins said Wolfe was not a source of classified information during their relationship, according to the Times.
Watkins joined the Times in late 2017 and previously worked for Buzzfeed News and Politico, the newspaper said.
The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they were troubled to hear of the charges against Wolfe.
“While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the committee takes this matter extremely seriously,” the panel’s chairman, Republican Senator Richard Burr, and its top Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, said in a statement.
Burr and Warner said they were made aware of the investigation late last year and have fully cooperated with the FBI and Justice Department.
“This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation,” the statement said.
Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Paul Tait