FBI Doesn't Allow Huffington Post Reporter Into Director's Talk

Other journalists were permitted to cover it.
FBI director James Comey
FBI director James Comey

NEW YORK -- The FBI on Friday did not permit a Huffington Post reporter to attend director James Comey’s speech to members of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), which was the subject of a critical article the journalist wrote in August. 

Comey's talk wasn't off the record, as reporters from The Washington Post and USA Today attended and covered it. The FBI tweeted a photo of the director addressing the group. 

The reporter, Ali Watkins, responded on Twitter to another journalist attending the symposium and said the agency wouldn't let her in to the event.

"Which is the latest in absolute Washington bullshit, but sadly, I think they kinda believed it," she added. 


She declined to comment further. 

An FBI spokesman declined to comment. 

"We are disappointed that the FBI declined to allow our reporter into a public forum that other journalists attended," said HuffPost senior politics editor Sam Stein. "Worse, they've provided no explanation for their refusal to do so. We encourage them to reconsider their policy on press access in the future."

While it's unclear exactly why the FBI refused to admit Watkins, the move comes two months after she reported that the HIG, an interagency group that was supposed to be comprised of elite interrogators, may not be living up to expectations. U.S. officials and outside critics have questioned the effectiveness and oversight of the interrogators, who are called upon to deal with high-level terrorist suspects, she wrote. 

The FBI defended the interrogators in a statement at the time, writing that "all HIG interviews are lawfully conducted in strict compliance with U.S. domestic law and international legal obligations" and that the interrogation squad "is subject to interagency legal oversight, as well as oversight by appropriate congressional committees."

Last year, Watkins was among the journalists excluded from the Senate Intelligence Committee's background briefing for the press just prior to the release of its report on CIA torture. Watkins had been part of a team at McClatchy, her previous employer, that deeply covered the Senate's torture investigation, reporting that was cited as a finalist for a 2015 Pulitzer Prize. 

Watkins will soon start a job with BuzzFeed.