Remember the story of Ali Watkins, the twenty-something reporter, now for The New York Times, who had been having an affair with 57-year-old married man James A Wolfe, the then-security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, while she was covering the Committee? Mr Wolfe, who had a security clearance, wound up getting arrested for lying to the FBI. Mr Wolfe wound up pleading guilty, but, not to worry, he got three Senators, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) to go to bat for him, and he got a whopping two months in the clink, four months probation, some community service and a huge $7,500 fine.

And now it has happened again:

Defense Intelligence Agency employee charged with leaking classified information to journalists

By Paul Duggan, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky | October 9, 2019 | 7:25 p.m. EDT

A counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency has been charged with leaking top-secret details about foreign countries’ weapons systems to two journalists, including a reporter with whom he apparently was romantically involved, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Henry K. Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Va., “was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information,” according to the Justice Department, which billed the case as part of the Trump administration’s prosecutorial crackdown on leakers who provide such materials to the news media and public.

After a federal indictment of Frese was unsealed Wednesday, the department said in a statement that his alleged “unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.” Officials declined to say whether any harm resulted.

“(A) reporter with whom he apparently was romantically involved,” huh?

His alleged motive apparently was to advance the career of the female reporter with whom he had a relationship, the FBI said in an affidavit filed in court. Frese allegedly passed additional classified information to one of the woman’s female colleagues at “an affiliated but different news outlet.”

Although authorities Wednesday withheld the names of the two journalists, the affidavit and indictment describe Twitter messages and online articles that offer a road map to their identities. The reporters appear to be Amanda Macias of CNBC and Courtney Kube of MSNBC, both of whom cover national security.

A person familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, confirmed that Macias and Kube were the alleged recipients of the leaked information and that investigators believe Macias had a personal relationship with Frese. The journalists and their media outlets did not respond to requests for comment.

Miss Macias shared an address with Mr Frese. Well, at least he ain’t 57 years old and married!

It ought to be obvious: if you have a security clearance, you shouldn’t be “romantically involved” with reporters. And it also ought to be obvious: our security services should automatically withdraw the security clearances held by anyone who becomes involved with a reporter. Our security services have a mission which includes keeping secrets; reporters have a mission which involves exposing secrets. Those two things are diametrically opposed, and a “romantic involvement” can only lead to trouble.

Now, of course, NBC needs to decide what to do with Misses Macias and Kube. The New York Times supposedly knew of Miss Watkins’ “relationship” with Mr Wolfe. Sarah Lee of RedState wrote:

Watkins insists she disclosed the relationship to her employers, including the New York Times. They apparently didn’t care. It’s coming out now that Buzzfeed knew about the relationship and let her cover the Senate Intelligence Committee anyway.

Mollie Hemingway wrote, in The Federalist:

Legendary New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal once fired a newly hired reporter when he learned she’d had an intimate relationship with one of the people she reported on at her previous newspaper. Michael Goodwin explains what happened next:

Word of the incident spread quickly through the newsroom, and several female reporters complained to Rosenthal. They argued that the woman was treated unfairly, at which point Abe raised his finger for silence and said something to this effect: ‘I don’t care if you f–k an elephant on your personal time, but then you can’t cover the circus for the paper.’

Miss Macias was (apparently) copulating with a source; Miss Kube may or may not have known that her colleague was doing this when she collaborated with Miss Macias. Now: what is NBC going to do? The Times did not do as Mr Rosenthal would have done; editor Dean Baquet reassigned Miss Watkins from Washington to New York and assigned her a mentor. And some journalists complained about it:

The episode has alarmed some press organizations because of the manner in which Watkins’s relationship with Wolfe was uncovered — via investigators’ secret seizure of her phone and email records, which showed extensive contacts between Watkins and Wolfe over a three-year period starting in late 2013.

The aggressive tactic has drawn criticism, including from Baquet on Tuesday, because it appears to be a government effort to intimidate reporters and interfere with legitimate newsgathering efforts while rooting out the source of leaks.

Translation: Mr Rosenthal’s ethics, already sabotaged by his newspaper’s later editor, will save Miss Kube, at the very least, and probably save Miss Macias’ job as well. After all, they’re young and pretty, so naturally they’ll get cut a break. At least CNN fired “resigned” Donna Brazile for giving debate questions in advance to Hillary Clinton, but remember: Miss Brazile isn’t a cute, young white girl.
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