Little attention has been brought to the case of Reality Winner, a former NSA contractor who released a document to the Intercept disclosing that Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on U.S. voting software during the 2016 presidential election. She now faces charges of violating the Espionage Act under the Trump Administration.
Due to a colossal act of negligence by one of the reporters at the Intercept, federal agents were able to trace the leaked document directly back to Winner. Rather than verifying the authenticity of the information within the document with government contractors, as is protocol, an Intercept reporter – who has remained unnamed – sent a copy of the actual document itself; creases, watermarks and all.
Both the NSA and FBI received a copy of the actual document sent to the Intercept by Winner. Shortly after, they arrested her. The Intercept has since issued an apology, though it does Winner little good. They’ve also agreed to help pay for her legal defense.
Many mainstream media outlets reported that the leak proved Russia meddled in the U.S. election. This is not accurate. The document shows only that Russian intelligence attempted to obtain voting data. It does not confirm they attempted to affect the election outcome.
If there’s one potentially good thing about the U.S.’s mass surveillance program, it’s that they’ve employed hundreds of thousands of Americans in the intelligence community. This is when you also count the hundreds of small contractors the government now accrues.
With so many citizens involved in mass surveillance, security is run thin, and it is inevitable some will turn whistleblower. The government is aware of this. It is part of the reason they punish whistleblowers so severely. They’re trying to make “examples” out of them to intimidate others in the intelligence community, and keep them in control.
Reality Winner worked for one of those small contractors. After turning whistleblower, she became one of the “examples” the U.S. government is now trying to make.
New York Magazine stated in a recent report:
Those who criticize whistle-blowers often suggest that the offender ought to have followed a more “responsible” course — what Obama once called in his criticism of Snowden the “procedures and practices of the intelligence community.” There are reasons notorious leakers have stopped doing so, and those reasons involve a man named Thomas Drake.
In 2002, Drake had concerns about a wasteful and unconstitutional $1 billion warrantless-wiretapping program later revealed to be among the worst and most expensive failures in the history of U.S. intelligence. He alerted the NSA’s general counsel, informed Diane Roark, a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee in charge of NSA oversight, and, anonymously, informed congressional committees investigating the mistakes that led to 9/11. He alerted the inspector general of the Department of Defense, which launched an investigation.
Colleagues warned him that he ought to stop. Eventually, the FBI raided Drake’s home and the Justice Department charged him with “willful retention of national defense information.” An assistant inspector general later claimed that the Pentagon was punishing Drake for whistle-blowing and had improperly destroyed material related to his defense. Drake lost his job, his pension, and his savings. His marriage fell apart. He now works at the Apple store in Bethesda, Maryland.
To avoid their obligations to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, law enforcement agents like to use what they call “noncustodial” interrogations, as was the case with Winner. Despite being effectively detained, she was never read her Miranda rights. She was therefore unaware at that time that she had a right to legal counsel, and did not have to testify against herself.
During Winner’s recent court hearing, prosecutors never said her actions were criminal, but “of interest.” For example, it was not criminal that she owned four phones, but “of interest.” It was not criminal that she knew how to change a sim card, but “of interest.”
The Justice Department is also attempting to make it impossible for Winner to defend herself. Using classification rules that have been described as cumbersome, she will not be allowed to argue her defense in court. Additionally, her attorneys state that parts of her case are unconstitutionally being kept hidden from the public.
Winner’s attorneys also point out that prosecutors have added no new charges, even though it was months ago they claimed she may have stolen additional secrets. The presiding judge denied her bond, siting concerns she could be a flight risk. She is still being detained at the Lincoln County Detention Center in Lincolnton, Georgia awaiting her trial scheduled in March.
Meanwhile, corrupt politicians, sleezy corporate moguls, and greedy bankers walk free. Because those are the only people “freedom” applies to in America.
Many people, not just in the United States, but around the world, are trying to bring attention to Winner’s case. This includes those within the Anonymous movement.