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First Major Leaker Indicted by DOJ

By ACLJ.org1497384348611

It’s an issue that shouldn’t be partisan. It shouldn’t matter who the President is. All Americans should praise the indictment of someone who leaks top-secret classified information and breaks the law while also making statements siding with Iran over the United States, saying she wanted to “burn the White House down.”

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a Federal Government contractor with top secret security clearance was charged with leaking classified U.S. intelligence documents after she allegedly removed classified materials from a Government agency and mailed them to a digital news outlet.

Winner was a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation based at a government agency in Augusta, GA.  A criminal complaint was filed in the Southern District of Georgia that charged Winner with leaking these classified documents to an online news outlet.  The content of the leaks served as basis to an article published by a website known as The Intercept, which specializes in National Security reporting. The article published by The Intercept details a Russian military intelligence hacking effort days before the 2016 presidential election.

Even more troubling was the fact that an internal audit conducted by an agency revealed Winner was one of six people who printed the document but was the only one to have had any email contact with the news agency.

The Justice Department stated that Winner was arrested “for violating federal law that prohibits the distribution of classified defense information.”  Prosecutors stated that, when confronted with the allegations, Winner admitted to leaking the classified documents intentionally.  Winner’s case is the first criminal leak case under President Trump and it shows the Justice Department’s inclination to prosecute leakers.

An FBI affidavit filed on Monday, states that investigators allege Winner “printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it.” 

According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement, “Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government.  People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”  The classified information that Winner stole from the NSA and distributed to news agencies provided details of a 2016 Russian cyberattack on a U.S. software supplier.

Winner regularly took to social media to complain about President Trump.  She had a history of posting negative comments on Twitter and Facebook regarding the election of Donald Trump and did not hide any disdain she had for the President.  A CNN article clearly outlines many of her negative social media activity against the President.  For example, on February 11, she replied to a tweet by President Trump and called him as an “orange fascist”. Another article details further extreme anti-Trump sentiments Winner posted on social media.  In another tweet, she announced that she would stand with the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime against the United States.  On February 3rd, She replied to a tweet from Javad Zarif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stating that “if our Tangerine in Chief declares war, we stand with you!” Along with this extremist rhetoric, Winner wrote in a journal that she would not only set the White House on fire, but pledge her allegiance to the Taliban. Winner’s attorney claimed his client was being punished for being a “typical tech-savvy millennial,” but every millennial with a computer is not leaking classified information and making direct threats to our national security.

This type of behavior on social media is clear evidence of what Winners’ real intentions were behind leaking this classified information. She clearly had no business having top secret security clearance.

The timing of the case against Winner is important, as there is a surge of leaked information coming from the White House and other federal agencies since President Trump took office.

These leaks endanger our national security in a pathetic attempt to make a political statement. It is yet more evidence of a deep state shadow government – bureaucratic officials and government contractors still loyal to the Obama Administration – looking to undermine the Trump Administration.

At the ACLJ, we have repeatedly called for the prosecution of suspected leakers and echo President Trump’s pledge that leakers in his Administration will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As we previously reported: “According to the New York Times, ‘[i]n its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.’”  These new rules were issued and approved by two Obama Administration officials: Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.  After this rule change, the possibility of intelligence leaks grew exponentially.  As we previously noted: “By greatly expanding access to classified information by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, the Obama Administration paved the way for a shadow government to leak that classified information, endangering our national security, in an attempt to undermine President Trump.”

In March, we delivered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Security, and the National Security Agency to try to find out why the Obama Administration waited only a few days before a new Administration took office to implement such a significant change in intelligence policy. Two months ago we were forced to file a lawsuit against both the NSA and ODNI for refusing to comply with our FOIA request. This case remains in ongoing litigation.

The message must be clear – when you violate the law and put our national security in jeopardy by leaking classified information, you will be prosecuted.  Prosecuting leakers would act as a deterrent to potential leakers to show them what is to come if they continue leaking classified information.  Repairing the damage to a broken system should start with a bipartisan consensus that Winner’s actions were criminal and deserve swift punishment.

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