Reality Leigh Winner was an NSA contractor with a Top Secret clearance. As an applicant for TS clearance and a position with that erstwhile institution, you’d expect that things like her Facebook and Twitter accounts may have been perused from time to time from the day she applied to … whenever. You would, apparently, be wrong.
First, who’s involved here? There’s the NSA. There’s Ms. Reality Leigh Winner (nope, not a joke), and then, there’s The Intercept. We all know who the NSA is so there really isn’t any need to go into that. Ms. Winner and The Intercept, on the other hand are different stories.
Ms. Winner is a 25 year old USAF veteran who was a linguistics specialist in Farsi, Pashtu, and some other languages. Apparently, she was also an athlete as some of level. What motivated her to do this? Who knows but, her social media postings certainly give a clue.
Obviously, Ms. Winner was not a fan of President Trump or his agenda.
As a matter of fact, she is known to have also sent messages to the Iranian foreign minister.
The fascinating aspect of this situation is that Ms. Winner was either under consideration for employment with the NSA (which meant a background investigation, supposedly) or she was already employed there. And, it seems, no one bothered to either check or monitor her social accounts. Oh, wait! You’re not allowed to do that to American citizens! Really? How many times have you heard of employers demanding the social media accounts of potential employees? How many times have you heard of employees being fired over what they write on those accounts, even on their own time?
It seems that on or about May 9, Ms. Winner accessed the document on her computer and printed it. Needless to say, that act, alone, was enough to identify who it was that provided the document since all printers have an ID system on them, now. ALL printers. Yep. Even yours. Apparently, she then folded up the report, left the building with it, and went … ? She mailed that report to The Intercept.
There are three things to note: 1) The Intercept sent a copy of the actual paper (or some of it, anyway) report to the NSA when asking for verification that it was real and for a comment on the contents. 2) What was sent to the NSA were actual pictures of the documents contained within a PDF. Those pictures were good enough for the NSA to get what they needed to verify that the document was an actual report and on which printer it was printed on at the NSA. 3) The investigation by the NSA revealed that Ms. Winner was the only one of six people who had email contact with The Intercept. That’s what you would call a “gotcha” moment.
Then we have The Intercept. For the sake of clarity, let’s let them tell you who they are:
“After NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden came forward with revelations of mass surveillance in 2013, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill decided to found a new media organization dedicated to the kind of reporting those disclosures required: fearless, adversarial journalism. They called it The Intercept.” The Intercept. Imagine that. Mr. Snowden’s buddy, Glenn Greenwald. Founding member of the The Intercept. The question is, who at that paragon of publishing was the person who was in receipt of, and maintained control over, the classified report? Who made the decision to publish it? Whoever “they” are, they are in deep trouble.
According to 28 USC (United States Code) 37, titled Espionage and Censorship, § 793(d, e) specifically pertain to what has happened over the last several days. These sections of the Code state, in whole:
(d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or
(e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Let’s look at paragraph (d), first. Note that wording “Whoever”. Doesn’t matter who it is. If that person has legal possession of a document, etc., relating to the national defense, willfully communicates, etc., that information “to any person not entitled to receive it” they “shall” (that means “not maybe”) be fined or imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both. Based on that, alone, if Ms. Winner is found guilty of violating this section, she’s facing up to ten years in federal prison.
Certainly, Ms. Winner qualifies as a “whoever”. We don’t know if she had legal possession of the document at work, though. But, for this particular instance, let’s say she did. Then she printed that document on her printer, apparently folded it up, and eventually gave it to someone at The Intercept. We’ll have to wait and see what happens to this but, it seems like a fairly open and shut case. Look for Ms. Winner to plead guilty.
Section (e) is rather amazing. How many times have you heard that journalists are exempt from laws regarding the publishing of classified information if they weren’t the ones who stole it? I dare you to read this section and come up with any rendering, whatsoever, that allows The Intercept off the hook on this one. Consider: 1) The Intercept qualifies as “whoever” and so does every individual who had anything to do with the handling of that document once it was possessed by The Intercept. That includes Glenn Greenwald; 2) the report certainly qualifies as a “document”; 3) that document relates to the national defense; 4) there is no way they can claim that they did not know the information could be used against the US since that information is specifically included in the report, itself; 5) they willfully communicated the report (published it); 6) to how many people across the world who were not entitled to receive that report.
Under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 – Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities these people also have some potential problems. Here’s what treason is officially described as:
“18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
It’s rather clear that everyone involved could be charged with treason. Everything we know, so far, falls within that definition.
You can bet on one thing, though. Just like the left constantly voiced its hatred for James Comey and then, when he was fired, ran to his rescue solely to use his firing as a bludgeon against President Trump, they would do the same if anyone involved in this mess was charged with treason.
It would seem that not only is Ms. Winner in a very deep puddle of her own making, so is the The Intercept. As they should be. And both ought to be held accountable to the maximum allowed by law. The question is, which law? That, you have to answer for yourself.
As for the NSA in all this mess. They dropped the ball on this one like they have on so many other situations regarding classified information. Whoever is in charge of these departments within the NSA, they ought to fired, not demoted, not allowed to retire. Fired. Quickly. Without ceremony. And removed from the premises, never to return.