FBI Misconstrued Content Of Doc Leaker Reality Winner's Jailhouse Calls

from the press-'record'-and-be-done-with-it dept

The ongoing prosecution of document leaker Reality Winner has developed some new wrinkles. Despite having a very traceable leaked document in hand, the FBI is pitching in by misleading government lawyers -- and by extension, the presiding court. Maybe it's deliberate. Maybe it isn't. Either way, the administration wants desperately to crack down on leakers, and having a high-profile case result in a multi-year sentence would be a good start.

Right now, the government just wants to keep Winner locked up until her trial. Prosecutors have been arguing against her being released from jail by misconstruing the contents of recorded calls from Winner. (h/t Jeremy Scahill)

In arguing for her to be kept in the Lincoln County Jail in Lincolnton, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari told a judge Winner was recorded in a jailhouse phone call discussing some “documents” — plural — raising concerns she might have gathered other top-secret information beyond the NSA report she is accused of leaking. Solari said she was also overheard directing the transfer of $30,000 from her savings account to her mother’s account because the court had taken away her free appointed counsel.

But none of this is true. And it's not as though it's a matter of interpretation. Recordings exist.

But in an email to Winner’s attorneys on June 29, Solari said Winner could be heard in the recording telling her mom she “leaked a document,” singular. And in another recorded phone call, Solari said, Winner asked her mom to transfer her money because of fears authorities “might freeze it.” Winner’s attorneys said she was afraid she would not be able to pay her bills if her account were frozen.

So, where did this bogus info come from? The FBI, of course, which can't be bothered to let a recording literally speak for itself. US Attorney Solari stated in her email her comments on plural documents and the reasons for the requested funds transfer came from "verbal summaries" of the calls provided by the feds.

If there's anything the FBI has shown a systemic dislike for, it's recordings. Despite several decades of recording tech advancements, the FBI prefers pen-and-paper for "recording" interviews with suspects, indictees, and witnesses. In this case, the FBI could have given the prosecutor the recordings directly. Instead, it chose to provide an inaccurate summary. With the FBI, it's never your word against theirs. It's the FBI's words. Period.

Winner's attorneys have asked for her release pending trial, pointing to former military personnel who were allowed to roam free before having their day in court -- people like Gen. Petraeus, who was allowed to retain his position as CIA director up until he plead guilty to mishandling classified documents. But, as her attorneys are surely aware, a multi-tiered justice system doesn't allow for the release of NSA contractors who don't have Forever War Hero listed on their resumes.

Beneath all of this is one incredible fact: the FBI chose to present a verbal recap rather than hand over recordings. If the prosecutor hadn't bothered to listen to the tapes, the judge would be relying on misstatements made by the FBI when making a decision affecting someone's freedom. And if it had gone further than this, those verbal recaps might have been entered as evidence showing Winner was seeking to cut-and-run and possibly leak more documents -- both of which would have had an extremely adverse effect on her sentencing.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 10:58am

    The FBI have become with hunters, and like all witch hunters before them accusation equals guilt, and any and every tactic can be used to prove that guilt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 10:59am

    How to look good, FBI style.

    It sure seems the FBI is afraid of the truth. They have bought into the whole sting psychology that there is no other way for them, though I think the idea of notes rather than recordings existed first.

    Seeming to have 'solved' a 'problem' is more important to them that actually solving problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 11:33am

    Watched any of those CSI stuff lately? There's a pattern: they take evidence out of questionable forensics (or thin air), they don't like when judges force them into due process because "people will die!" and they think they are the law. Arts aren't created in a vacuum. They usually build on reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:01pm

      Re:

      Hollywood stuff also encourages bad behavior.

      For example, Jack Bauer often tortures terrorists/etc. to get them to talk, which makes lots of people think torture works. Some politicians have even cited Jack Bauer and the fictional Hollywood show as evidence that torture works.

      But ask actual interrogation experts and they'll tell you torture simply doesn't work, unless you want to be fed a bunch of lies that the person thinks you want to hear.

      Being kind and charming to terrorists and other enemies you're interrogating has long been much more effective at getting valuable Intel from them. During WW2 the British basically treated their Nazi prisoners like royalty, and got a ton of valuable intelligence from them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 26 Sep 2017 @ 2:15pm

      Re:

      Don't forget that everyone who asks for a lawyer is either guilty or at least an asshole. And don't get me started on parallel construction...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:27pm

    FBI 302 Perjury Trap

    If there's anything the FBI has shown a systemic dislike for, it's recordings. Despite several decades of recording tech advancements, the FBI prefers pen-and-paper for "recording" interviews with suspects, indictees, and witnesses.

    How many innocent persons are rotting away in the US Gulag Archipelago because the stalwart defenders of freedom at FBI railroaded them using the 302 perjury trap?

    https://grandjurytarget.com/2017/05/18/what-is-an-fbi-302-the-problematic-nature-of-fbi-agents -interview-memos/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 7:20pm

      Re: FBI 302 Perjury Trap

      Given that the FBI just got caught committing perjury and/or evidence tampering, I wonder if the agent(s) in question will get their own Gulag cells?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:36pm

    "FBI Misconstrued" is much too mild

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/misconstrue - To interpret erroneously, to understand incorrectly; to misunderstand.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/misrepresent - To represent falsely; to inaccurately portray something.

    As I read the facts in this article, the FBI cannot be the one to misconstrue the recordings, as they were the ones who listened to the recordings and provided the summary to the prosecutor. They can be said to have misrepresented the recordings to the prosecutor. They can only be said to have misconstrued the recordings if the content of the recording is ambiguous (poor quality audio, suspicion of coded messages, etc.).

    The prosecutor might be said to have misconstrued the FBI's summary, but it looks to me more like the prosecutor's only mistake was in trusting that the FBI would present an accurate summary; she accurately relayed to the court the FBI's misinformation. Further, when the prosecutor listened to the recordings and realized that the FBI summary was inaccurate, she did the right thing by alerting the parties to whom she had furnished the FBI's inaccurate information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:57pm

      Re: "FBI Misconstrued" is much too mild

      In other words, the FBI can't be trusted. I was going to add more, but they prove they are untrustworthy in all respects.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Oblate (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 1:13pm

        Re: Re: "FBI Misconstrued" is much too mild

        In other words, the FBI can't be trusted.

        That's a matter of perspective. From the FBI's perspective, it's the prosecutor who can't be trusted.

        For everyone else, it's what you said.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 2:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: "FBI Misconstrued" is much too mild

          Giving them the benefit of the doubt you could say that they, along with many other agencies and groups, have been infected by 'The Good Guy' disease.

          The Good Guys are never wrong.

          The Good Guys don't make mistakes.

          The Good Guys are on the side of justice 100%.

          Given the above if The Good Guys know that someone is guilty, and know that they will cause damage if they aren't 'stopped', then whatever it takes to accomplish that is acceptable.

          Lie to a judge? Better than than one of The Bad Guys have even the slightest bit of freedom they might use for Bad Stuff.

          Target for a sting desperate or literally mentally handicapped? They obviously were criminals, so it's better to get them in a cell 'just in case'.

          Remember: The Good Guys Are Never Wrong.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 2 Oct 2017 @ 5:15am

      Re: "FBI Misconstrued" is much too mild

      https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/construe - To interpret or explain the meaning of something.

      (my local copy of gcide)/Construe - To put a construction upon; to explain the sense or intention of; to interpret; to understand.

      That is, by explaining what (they alleged that) Winner's statements meant, the FBI was construing those statements.

      And since it was doing so inaccurately, it was misconstruing them.

      IOW: the given definition for "misconstrue" appears to be overly narrow, or at least a little misleading, even by Wiktionary's own definition of "construe". (It can be correct if you parse "interpret" broadly enough, but I suspect that most people will parse that word more narrowly.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 3:50pm

    What surprises me is that people still grant interviews to the FBI or any other LEO without their own attorney and tape recorder.

    Rumor has it that if you tell an FBI duo, "Sure we can do an interview, just let met get my voice recorder," that they will disappear like the morning mist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 11:08pm

    GENTLEMEN GENTLEMEN THIS IS A FEDERAL COURT ROOM, YOU CAN'T HAVE TRUTH IN HERE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 27 Sep 2017 @ 12:51am

    Justice at the Speed of Glaciers

    So Reality Winner has been banged up waiting trial since early June? I thought that the FBI's evidence was compelling, and that they had a de facto confession to the leak?

    What the fuck have these so-called prosecutors been doing for nearly a third of a year? Did they all go on vacation for the summer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 3:54am

      "You can do this the easy way(plea guilty), or the hard way(make us work), your choice..."

      "We'll get around to a trial... eventually. Though you know, you could speed this right up if you were to agree to plea guilty(along with a few other minor stipulation) and skip this whole 'court' thing.

      If not however, well, we've got a few things to go over, I'm sure they'll only take a few more months, maybe a year or so to iron out before we get a date for a trial set up, you never know."

      Something along those lines I imagine, even if they'd never be that honest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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