Sign the Petition: Drop the Charges Against Reality Winner

June 8, 2017

Department of Justice:

Drop the changes against Ms. Reality L. Winner, the defense contractor who allegedly shared with the media evidence of attacks against US election systems by foreign agents. This information should not have been classified. Ms. Winner’s prosecution appears politically motivated.

Courage to Resist will attempt to keep signers of the Reality Winner petition up-to-date with periodic news and alerts from her family and attorney. You will be able to opt out at any time.

Why alleged whistle-blower Reality Winner deserves support

By Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist. June 8, 2017

Reality Winner is a 25-year-old Air Force veteran who was arrested in Augusta, Georgia on June 3rd. She allegedly released classified NSA documents to The Intercept, which were the basis for a story about Russian hacking efforts against US election systems leading up to last year’s presidential election. Reality is currently in the Lincoln County Jail in Georgia, and faces up to ten years in prison.

Reality Winner—yes, that is her given legal name—did the right thing, and she should be defended.

Reality allegedly leaked information regarding attempted interference in an election, tampering that many believe assisted in Donald Trump’s presidential win—despite earning nearly four million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The documents published by The Intercept only confirm earlier accounts of US election hacking attempts and, given the current administration’s extreme antagonisms against facts, the release of these documents was clearly in the public interest. Like the vast majority of government documents that are hidden from public view, these reports should have been declassified by now anyway.

Now Trump’s own Department of Justice has targeted Reality. It’s a sinister move, but on the other hand, simply a continuation Obama’s unprecedented zeal in prosecuting whistle-blowers. Trump inherited an atrocious War on Leaks, and Reality is the latest victim of that war. Her arrest is a signal to the world, and the four million other Americans with access to classified information: Only sanctioned leaks benefiting the government will be tolerated.

There’s a striking hypocrisy to Trump’s crackdown. Less than a month ago the President was criticized for carelessly leaking classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting. We now know this information concerned a bomb that is being developed by ISIS. This is standard operating procedure: lawmakers have no issue leaking classified information if it somehow furthers their interest, but they aggressively prosecute citizens who expose actual wrongdoing.

I believe that Reality Winner’s possible actions should be understood within the context of recent heroic whistleblowing. Shortly before leaving office, Barack Obama commuted the remaining sentence of US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was facing 27 more years in prison for exposing war crimes and corruption. Edward Snowden, who leaked information about our government’s massive spying program, was granted asylum in Russia but faces espionage charges back home. Just like Manning, it seems that Reality was able to see the inner workings of the United States’ war machine.

She served in the Air Force from 2013 until early this year, working as a linguist. Like Snowden, she would have had a better view than most as to how our security state works. Up until last week, she was a military defense contractor with the Pluribus International Corporation in the suburbs outside of Augusta, Georgia, and had Top Secret security clearance.

The US government has spent tens of millions of dollars in better auditing capabilities since the disclosures by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Those that would rather keep the public in the dark as to what their government is doing with their tax dollars and in their name, have redoubled their efforts to identify whistle-blowers much more quickly. Winner’s arrest was facilitated by the government’s increased ability to more easily identify the relatively small number of people that recently accessed documents in question as well as the yellow-colored, nearly-invisible micro dots that most color printers today use to include a printer’s serial number and time stamp on each printed page. This appears to have contributed to the focus on Reality Winner.

Reality is expected to plead not guilty to charges against her today. We don’t know exactly why she allegedly released the NSA documents to the press, but we do have some insight into her views about the world. Her social media accounts show a woman who, like a clear majority of Americans, is critical of Donald Trump. She has also voiced support for Edward Snowden, and opposition to the US fabricating a reason to attack Iran.

According to The Intercept, [Winner’s leak] “ratchets up the stakes of the ongoing investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives . . . If collusion can ultimately be demonstrated – a big if at this point – then the assistance on Russia’s part went beyond allegedly hacking email to serve a propaganda campaign, and bled into an attack on U.S. election infrastructure itself.”

We are talking about a potentially monumental story that might require prosecutions, but Reality Winner shouldn’t be the one who ends up in jail. While the details of the story continue to unfold, by all indications she deserves our support, and the release of these documents should be celebrated.

Important links

Gofundme to support Reality Winner & Family. Note that Reality’s mother voiced support for this effort in a June 7 Facebook post.

Reality Winner, N.S.A. Contractor Accused of Leak, Was Undone by Trail of Clues. New York Times. June 6, 2017

Reality Winner coverage by the Guardian