- The self-described pro-transparency group WikiLeaks elbowed a reporter on Twitter whose data was seized by the Justice Department as part of a federal investigation into leaks of classified information.
- The organisation quoted the reporter’s tweets, in which she first criticised a fictional character for sleeping with a source to get information, and later mused about the ethics of doing the same in real life before adding that she was “totally kidding.”
- WikiLeaks’ apparent jabs at the reporter may raise eyebrows, given that the organisation’s claim to fame rests on it publishing secret and classified information leaked to it by anonymous sources.
WikiLeaks, an organisation that first gained attention for publishing leaked classified information, just sniped at a reporter who is now at the center of a federal investigation into leaks of classified information.
The New York Times reported late Thursday that prosecutors had obtained years worth of email and phone data belonging to the reporter, Ali Watkins, as part of the Justice Department inquiry. Watkins works for The Times.
She was also previously in a three-year romantic relationship with James Wolfe, the former security director of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wolfe, who worked as the panel’s security director for three decades, was arrested Thursday night on charges of lying to the FBI as part of the leak investigation.
The Justice Department accuses Wolfe of making false statements to the FBI in December about his contacts with three reporters and whether he gave “nonpublic information” to two reporters. Wolfe denies the charges.
On Friday, WikiLeaks chimed in on the developments on Twitter.
The group quoted one of Watkins’ tweets from April 2013, in which she said she “wanted to be Zoe Barnes…until episode 4. Sleeping with your source- especially a vindictive congressman? #badlifechoice #HouseofCards”
Zoe Barnes was a fictional character and a journalist on the Netflix series, “House of Cards.” One of the storylines on the show involved her sleeping with the main character, Frank Underwood, who was a US congressman, to get information from him.
WikiLeaks followed up and quoted another tweet from Watkins which said, “So on a scale of 1 to ethical, how does everyone feel about pulling a @RealZoeBarnes for story ideas? #TOTALLYKIDDING @HouseofCards.”
WikiLeaks touts itself as a non-profit and pro-transparency group that publishes secret and classified information leaked to it by anonymous sources.
Since its inception in 2006, the group has published millions of pages of documents related to critical national-security issues like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. It has also released sensitive personal information like medical records and Social Security numbers.
WikiLeaks drew additional scrutiny when it published batches of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign during the 2016 US election.
Since then, the group has been described by then-CIA director Mike Pompeo as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and a propaganda tool for the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
WikiLeaks is currently at the center of one of the threads of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which is examining whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favour.
Among other things, Mueller is said to be zeroing in on the hack of the DNC and is building a criminal case against Russians involved in the effort. He is also looking into whether Trump, who frequently praised WikiLeaks during the campaign, played any role in stealing and publishing the hacked materials.
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