Resister, whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner

September 18, 2017

By Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist

We’re proud to stand with Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran facing ten years in prison for releasing a classified NSA document allegedly revealing Russian interference in US election systems to the media. She’s currently scheduled to stand trial in March 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. Like the successful Chelsea Manning campaign, Courage to Resist is hosting the Stand with Reality Winner Defense Fund on behalf of Reality’s friends and family.

A recent Air Force veteran, Reality’s a passionate and outspoken young woman with strongly-held opinions about environmental justice, animal rights and racism. Like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, she’s a courageous whistleblower who (allegedly) gave a media outlet classified information that was clearly of public interest.

The document she’s charged with sharing lies on a weird political fault line in America today—it revealed massive security vulnerabilities in US election systems that were attacked, and possibly exploited, by the Russian government leading up to the 2016 election. And it did so at a time when the President of the US claimed he had no idea what might have happened. Not surprisingly, the political right dismisses news of Russian hacking attempts as simply another attempt to discredit Donald Trump. However, the political left is generally wary of anti-Russia “warmongering.” Yet we should be able to oppose war, and insist on the integrity of our election systems, at the same time!

This political setup has left Realty facing the full force of a politically motivated US Department of Justice, determined to make an example out of her as the first casualty in their war against whistleblowers and the news media, with far too few outspoken advocates.

By denying Reality bail leading up to her trial, playing games with the evidence, and endangering election integrity by continuing to withhold information, Trump’s Justice Department is piling up injustices in a case that increasingly looks like it’s motivated by politics and pure spite more than any notion of the rule of law.

The prosecution’s argument goes something like this: Reality harmed US interests by leaking a classified document. How did releasing the document harm US interests? Because it’s classified. What harm was being prevented by the document being classified? We can’t talk about that, because it’s classified. In short, the jury may never have a chance to know what was actually released, and why it was vitally important for it to have been made public.

Testimony from state election officials has made it clear they learned about the security vulnerabilities in their election systems the same way the rest of America did—by reading about them in The Intercept, who published the document allegedly provided by Reality. News reports—the kind the prosecution would like to prevent Reality’s defense from talking about—have said anywhere from 21 to 39 states were affected by these attacks.

While Reality sits in jail, the Trump administration is still distorting the truth about the security of our election systems, refusing to give states and the public the tools they need to fix security vulnerabilities and ensure everyone’s right to vote. This puts all of us at risk.

With the backing of our Stand with Reality support group, Reality has assembled an accomplished team of attorney’s that are currently fighting with the government lawyers through the pretrial phase of the proceedings.

It’s possible that this case will be the first time that the protections of the First Amendment will directly go up against the 100-year-old Espionage Act in a US courtroom. It’ll likely set legal precedents crucial to whistleblowing and press freedom, and the public’s right to know about election hacking. Reality and her legal team deserve our full support in this critically important fight.

For up-to-date information and to donate to her defense online, visit standwithreality.org. To donate by check, send to Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610, and note “Reality Winner” on the memo line.

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