The indictment of Reality Winner may be the opening salvo in the Trump Administration’s war on leaks. Reality is facing a serious charge under the Espionage Act for allegedly sharing an NSA report on Russian attempts to compromise the 2016 US Presidential election.
On June 5th, 2017, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, a federal contractor in Augusta, Georgia (USA), on charges of allegedly sharing classified information with a news outlet. Winner is alleged to have shared an NSA report on Russian military intelligence’s hacking efforts during the final days of the 2016 election to The Intercept, which published a story shortly before the DOJ announcement.
Winner worked as a translator for the US Air Force for six years before taking a job as a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation. She has been charged with mishandling and releasing classified information under the Espionage Act, a felony charge that carries a potential 10 years in prison.
Winner appeared in Federal court in Georgia on June 8th, where she pled not guilty and was denied bail.
The Intercept article based on the leaked NSA report reveals that the GRU (Russian military intelligence) attempted to infiltrate the software of VR Systems, an American voting machine supplier in eight states and sent phishing emails to over 100 local election officials in the days leading up to the 2016 Presidential election.
The Espionage Act carries a low bar for conviction; prosecutors merely have to prove the “potential” for harm, rather than actual damage. The Obama Administration made extensive use of this statute in its own aggressive pursuit of whistleblowers. Furthermore, the Act does not allow defendants to argue a public interest defense. If Reality did leak the report cited in The Intercept article, it’s clear that she intended to inform the American public with obviously newsworthy, valuable information that we should thank her for disclosing.
Had Reality Winner been a high-ranking official, it’s safe to say she wouldn’t be in this position. Those in the highest places disclose politically useful Secret information to journalists all the time with complete impunity. Now that a lower-level contractor has allegedly released information the government didn’t want out, she’ll feel the full force of the law.
Reality Winner needs widespread support as she faces an administration that has openly declared war on journalists and their sources. Please donate to our emergency defense fund and spread the word about Winner’s case.