Political activism: the new reason for leaking classified info
From Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden, Reality Leigh Winner is the latest spy agency employee to divulge classified information to the public and the news media, not for money or out of internal department spite, but as a gesture of political activism.
As of Tuesday, she remains jailed after being arrested Saturday for allegedly leaking a document about Russian hacking of U.S. electoral systems that was published in a story by The Intercept on Monday afternoon.
With a detention hearing for Winner scheduled for Thursday, her attorney told NBC News that "A week ago today she was living her life. Now she’s in the middle of a political whirlwind."
Snowden is someone all too familiar with being caught up in such tumult, and on Tuesday, he released a statement in support of Winner as the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
"No matter one's opinions on the propriety of the charges against her," he said, "we should all agree Winner should be released on bail pending trial. Even if you take all the government allegations as true, it's clear she is neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk. To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all."
The 25-year-old Winner is just one of many young people who find employment -- and security clearance -- working for U.S. government facilities. Intelligence historian Matthew Aid told NBC News that "The vast majority of people who do the (NSA)’s
intercept work, who translate and analyze — most of them are fresh out
of high school. There are thousands and thousands of 18 to
21-year-olds doing critically important and secret work around the
Winner served in the Air Force from 2010 until December 2016 as a Cryptologic Language Analyst, fluent in the Afghan languages Pasho and Dari. She then found her way doing contract work for the Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia. Its clients include agencies in federal defense, security, military and intelligence.
Social media-wise, Winner followed Snowden and WikiLeaks on Twitter, among other accounts that showed their disapproval of President Trump.
“She’s expressed to me that she’s not a fan of Trump, but she’s not
someone that goes and riots and pickets or stuff,” Winner’s mother told the
New York Daily News.
"These are people who have a greater sense of loyalty to some outside
cause than to the organization they are working in, and that’s a new
thing for the intelligence community," said a former senior NSA
official who wished to remain anonymous in the NBC News report.