The Justice Department’s war on government whistleblowers took a disturbing turn on Thursday afternoon when former government contractor Reality Winner was sentenced to a staggering 63 months in jail for leaking a classified NSA report on efforts by the Russian Federation to hack into voting software supplier and the accounts of election officials during the 2016 election.
It’s the longest sentence ever handed down to a leaker.
Reality Winner is likely to serve 10x more time for exposing Russian hacking than any of the people who have pleaded guilty to abetting it or covering it up. https://t.co/nF5hsLEeCI
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) August 23, 2018
Winner smuggled the report out under her clothing before mailing it to a news outlet, believed to be the Intercept, which published the report and provided proof to the nation that Russia was actively trying to interfere in our electoral apparatus during the highly contested 2016 election.
President Trump’s Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation due to his own highly suspicious secret meetings with the Russian ambassador, brought the hammer down on Winner in a preposterous sham of a trial.
The judge refused to release her on bond despite her lack of a criminal record and her years of loyal service in the U.S. military, as prosecutors falsely accused her of having stolen more documents and labeled her a flight risk.
Not once during the entire affair was it proven that her whistle-blowing consituted any kind of threat to national security in any way, but that didn’t seem to matter to Trump’s Justice Department, who were out for blood and didn’t care how they got it.
Prosecutor stated Reality Winner’s disclosure of NSA report “caused exceptionally grave damage to national security.” For record, that was never proven in court during course of this case and prosecutors claimed it didn’t have to be proven to convict of violating Espionage Act
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) August 23, 2018
It should be noted that the 1917 Espionage Act was designed to deal with leaking information to foreign governments, not the media, but the federal government has had no problem with exploiting it for their own pernicious ends.
On top of that, they smeared her reputation and painted her as a traitor for her social media posts, in which she was highly critical of that “soulless ginger orangutan” Donald Trump and openly disgusted with his election, as the majority of the country still is to this day.
Her stepfather was furious with the prosecution’s dirty tactics, saying that she was a patriot and that “She served her nation with distinguished honor. And that’s who Reality Winner is. It’s not the person that’s being portrayed. She is a winner.”
Once confronted with the evidence of her whistleblowing, Winner immediately admitted smuggling out the documents and expressed her frustration with the right-wing environment she was forced to work in, citing multiple complaints about how they would play FOX News in her NSA office.
None of that mattered to the judge, who sided with the government, as judges tend to do, and threw the book at Winner.
Her case is a harrowing glimpse into how the Trump administration plans on dealing with federal or military employees who dare to deliver the truth to the American people. But it must be noted that the precedent of heaping down punishment and rabidly chasing low-level whistleblowers was established by President Obama, who investigated and prosecuted more people for leaks than every other administration combined.
It was only recently that President Trump conceded that the Russian Federation interfered in our elections at all and still repeats NO COLLUSION! at least once a day. It’s obvious that this excessive punishment, which could have been even worse if she hadn’t pleaded guilty, is making an example out of her for the rest of the nation to see.
Winner doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment. She is a patriot who wanted to make sure the American people had evidence of what the Russians did during the 2016 election in light of a concentrated effort to keep the evidence under wraps.
She joined the Air Force, learned Arabic and Farsi, and then moved to the NSA with the ultimate goal of helping refugees. A woman with a passion and a good heart, she is now the latest of countless victims of our national security state’s appalling excesses.