A Border Patrol agent who obtained the travel records of a journalist and used the information to question her about her sources is facing an investigation for the misuse of government computer systems, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Investigators from the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection are determining whether the agent, Jeffrey Rambo, had improperly or illegally obtained travel information about then-Politico reporter Ali Watkins.
Travel information for millions of U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens is housed in the National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, located just outside of Washington. Rambo, the Times reports, had been assigned to the center, where he might have been able to access Watkins’s travel data.
Such data is strictly limited to immigration and law enforcement officials, according to The Times.
Rambo had contacted Watkins in June 2017, and claimed during a meeting at a D.C. bar that he was helping the FBI investigate leaks of classified information to the media.
Watkins told friends and editors that Rambo said he knew information about a trip to Spain that Watkins went on with her then-boyfriend, Senate Intelligence Committee security director James Wolfe.
Rambo suggested that he may reveal Watkins’s relationship with Wolfe to The Washington Post, and urged her to become an informant on other journalists who receive classified information, according to a Times account of the meeting.
Watkins turned down Rambo, and discovered his identity when she returned to the bar next day and obtained a credit card receipt identifying him.
Wolfe was indicted last month for lying to the FBI about his communications with reporters, and for giving reporters nonpublic information related to the committee.
The Department of Justice seized Watkins’s phone and email records as part of the investigation, raising alarm among media organizations and advocacy groups. Watkins now works for The New York Times.
The Times said earlier this month that Watkins will be reassigned from the paper’s intelligence beat and transferred to its main office in New York City.