New York Times Reassigns Reporter Ali Watkins After Leak Investigation

The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet announced a “fresh start” for a reporter whose phone and email records were secretly seized by the Justice Department earlier this year in a leak investigation. In a memo sent to staff Tuesday, Baquet said the Times abhorred the actions of the government in the case but was “troubled” by reporter Ali Watkins’ conduct.

“The Times must be a humane place that can allow for second chances when there are mitigating circumstances,” said Baquet in the memo. Watkins will be transferred to New York, assigned to a new beat and closely supervised by a senior mentor in her new position.

The Justice Department took Watkins’ communications records in the course of its investigation of James A. Wolfe, a senior Senate Intelligence Committee staffer she dated before her employment with the Times. For several months, the 26-year-old national security correspondent also hid the government’s seizure of her records from the Times. Baquet said the case raised questions about “the line between private and professional life.”

“We are troubled by Ali’s conduct, particularly while she was employed by other news organizations,” he wrote. “For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable.”

The news of her transfer comes after The Times concluded an internal investigation that analyzed her work and included interviews with current and former employees. Though Baquet blames her former employers for failing to respond “appropriately to her disclosures about her relationships,” he conceded that she had also disclosed “aspects of her past relationships” to some Times editors. Previously, Watkins worked for Buzzfeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, and for McClatchy news service.

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SOURCE: CBS News, Jon Dowding