Snowden Explains How The Espionage Act Unfairly Stacks The Deck Against Reality Winner

from the snowden-supports-reality dept

There's been plenty of talk about the rapid arrest of Reality Winner (and, yes, people are still baffled that a real person is named this) and the fact that the tracking dots on printers may have helped track her down (along with the fact that she was one of only a few people who had recently touched that document). Fewer seem to have focused on the details in the leak, about how the Russians quite likely hacked e-voting vendors to a much deeper level than suspected. That seems like really important information for the public to understand -- especially for those of us who have been screaming from the mountaintops for years about the lack of security in e-voting machines.

In short: this certainly feels like a completely justifiable leak to better inform the public of something important, and done in a way that is unlikely to harm any national security efforts or assets. It seems to fit right in with the whistleblowing tradition of other leakers. And, yet, Reality Winner is charged under the Espionage Act. And, as we've also discussed for years, the Espionage Act explicitly blocks people from using the public interest or whistleblowing as a defense. Such information is simply inadmissable.

As Ed Snowden has now pointed out in response to the charges against Winner, this remains a huge threat to a free press.

Winner is accused of serving as a journalistic source for a leading American news outlet about a matter of critical public importance. For this act, she has been charged with violating the Espionage Act—a World War I era law meant for spies—which explicitly forbids the jury from hearing why the defendant acted, and bars them from deciding whether the outcome was to the public's benefit. This often-condemned law provides no space to distinguish the extraordinary disclosure of inappropriately classified information in the public interest—whistleblowing—from the malicious disclosure of secrets to foreign governments by those motivated by a specific intent to harm to their countrymen.

The prosecution of any journalistic source without due consideration by the jury as to the harm or benefit of the journalistic activity is a fundamental threat to the free press. As long as a law like this remains on the books in a country that values fair trials, it must be resisted.

Indeed. There are many arguments that this aspect of the Espionage Act is unconstitutional -- but that hasn't been tested in court, and it may never get tested in court. Even if it does, you never know how judges might rule. But it does seem quite problematic that a law that is explicitly designed to deal with literal spies sending information privately to our enemies is now regularly applied against whistleblowers releasing information for the public's benefit.

Filed Under: ed snowden, espionage act, free press, free speech, leakers, reality winner, whistleblowers

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  1. icon
    Richard Hack (profile), 7 Jun 2017 @ 4:32pm

    Evidence indicates this is a false flag incident

    1) This person, Reality Winner, apparently had access to documents outside her area of expertise. Even after Snowden, are we to believe that the NSA STILL does not support "role authentication" and "need to know"?

    2) She printed ONE document which just HAPPENS to support the government's "RussiaGate" accusations against Russia (and by extension, Trump.)

    3) She printed this document on her work printer and from her workstation, despite the NSA monitoring their employees after Snowden. She postmarked the envelope from her actual location. She exhibited absolutely NO tradecraft or sttempt to disguise her culpability.

    4) Said document provides no actual evidence for its assertions. It's an "assessment", much like the "assessments" previously produced by the intelligence community, which also provided ZERO evidence to prove Russia did anything. There ARE NO "methods and sources" revealed.

    5) Unlike most cases of leaks, the NSA was quick to confirm this document as genuine and has completely promoted this document publicly and in the legal affidavits files released publicly.

    I believe this is a set-up: that this person is in fact a controlled patsy who is performing as a "reverse Snowdon" to release a document which the NSA would like to use to convince the public of its "RussiaGate" charges against Russia and Trump.

    What is disturbing is that The Intercept apparently told investigators the postmark on the envelope which, along with the printer forensic examination, led to the arrest of their source. The Intercept appears to have no concern whatsoever about this lapse in their own OPSEC on behalf of their source.

    What is Glenn Greenwald or Jeremy Scahill have to say about this behavior?

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