Reality Leigh Winner: The Whistleblower We Didn’t Want

It’s a story as old as the 21st century: A young NSA contractor with more access to classified information than they probably should have had leaks that information to the press, believing the public has a right to know that which their elected officials would never allow to see the light of day. That leaker’s identity is then revealed, the idealistic millennial facing a loss of liberty for doing that which they believed was a civic duty.

“In any other circumstances this would be an earthquake,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.

But this story is missing that next crucial step: the leaker being lauded — controversially, but nonetheless — for their courage and assigned the label “whistleblower” by those who typically defend such people. Reality Leigh Winner is not Edward Snowden, it seems, outside of the bipartisan condemnation both have received (McCaskill herself condemned the leak, while right-wing media declares Winner a traitor). And while it’s still early, it appears this NSA contractor, who leaked a report documenting Russian efforts to hack local U.S. election officials, won’t be getting the book-and-a-movie hero treatment.

Winner, 25, was arrested June 6 just hours after The Intercept published a story on a top-secret NSA report it obtained detailing alleged efforts by Russian military intelligence to hack “a U.S. voting software supplier and more than 100 local election officials in the days before voters went to the polls” in November 2016, per The Washington Post.

“I think they’re going to try to make an example out of her because of the political climate right now,” said Reality’s father, Billie Winner-Davis.

 

That the Russian government was, allegedly, attempting to tamper with the infrastructure of the 2016 election itself — beyond just deploying “active measures” like selective leaks and partisan disinformation — wasn’t itself breaking news. It was reported last year that the FBI had spotted attempts to compromise voter registration databases, with U.S. intelligence officials attributing the intrusions to Moscow. But as Bloomberg added reported on June 13, the cyberattacks were “far more widespread” than publicly revealed, affecting “a total of 39 states.”

That’s a big revelation, “buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept.” Winner apparently believed the U.S. public has a right to know if the integrity of its elections has been compromised by a foreign government at a time when the campaign of a U.S. president — who rejects charges of Russian interference in the election as “fake news” from sore-loser Democrats — is being investigated for possibly colluding with that government.

But it’s not just Trump and his reactionary allies who suspect this Russia stuff is fake news.

As ABC News noted, on the March 22 edition of The Intercept’s podcast, Intercepted, founding editor Jeremy Scahill discussed “tremendous amount of hysterics” and “premature conclusions being drawn around all of this Russia stuff.”

“We still haven’t seen any evidence for it,” commented Glenn Greenwald, another founding editor.

We don’t know if Winner listened to that particular episode, but according to the federal complaint, she leaked the NSA report on Russian hacking, to one of the most prominently skeptical outlets, after emailing The Intercept and requesting “transcripts of a podcast.” (Scahill and Greenwald confirmed the FBI’s assertion that transcripts were requested, but said it was for another episode, with the former expanding on that in another podcast, calling her treatment “horrid”).

It makes sense that a woman with access to top-secret evidence of Russian electoral interference might think that evidence would be buried, given who is president, and a desire to share that evidence with the still-skeptical would explain Winner’s alleged decision to go to The Intercept and not a major newspaper.

But that lingering skepticism also explains why Winner is no hero — no Snowden — in the eyes of the skeptics. When the story first broke, Scahill, for example, stressed the need for caution, highlighting a section of The Intercept’s story noting the leaked report “does not show the underlying ‘raw’ intelligence on which the analysis is based.” Greenwald, likewise, said that while journalism “requires that document be published… Rationality requires it be read skeptically.”

“If the NSA asserts something, that’s proof enough for me,” he added, sarcastically, referring to the leaked report on Russia — skepticism not apparent with respect to NSA PowerPoint presentations on the agency’s surveillance capabilities. “They never lie or err[.] Rationality is about blind belief in official conclusions.”

Since Winner’s indictment, both Greenwald and Scahill have largely kept quiet on the matter. The outlet itself did respond in a June 6 statement, however, saying it had “no knowledge of the identity of the person who provided us with the document” (the government claims Winner was identified as the leaker after an Intercept reporter shared the NSA document with an intelligence official, revealing that it had been printed out).

On June 13, Greenwald and Schahill broke their silence, revealing that while their colleagues have been limited in what they can say, “We do not face these same constraints.” They then go on to identify several victims of Trump’s Department of Justice: themselves. Reporters, they wrote, had accepted “unproven FBI claims in a contested criminal case as Truth,” though in doing so they confirmed the FBI’s widely reported claim: that someone “appeared to request transcripts of a podcast” (it was ABC, not the FBI, that suggested one of those transcripts may have been for the episode in which the two discussed “all of this Russia stuff”).

Missing from the statement, which comments directly on the FBI’s alleged chain of events, is any comment on the FBI’s arrest (and the Trump Department of Justice’s detention) of an alleged NSA leaker. That’s a curious omission given that, by their own admission, there are no constraints on what they can say, or what emergency defense funds they can publicize.

Given the void, one is left with speculation: that a commentator like Greenwald, who believes there’s a “deep state,” “military-industrial complex” “war” against a “duly elected” president — fought with weaponized leaks about things the president and his staff have said and done, centering on this Russia stuff — is perhaps not convinced this deep state-adjacent leaker is a whistleblower at all.

What’s important for readers to know, to The Intercept’s founding editors, is that their publication’s alleged source was not motivated by their Russia skepticism, or at least not spurred by the transcript of one recorded expression of it. What’s conspicuously lacking is that express solidarity with a woman — source or not — who is accused of, and facing prison time for, releasing a report that revealed no raw intelligence or intelligence-gathering methods but demonstrated, for the skeptics, that at least the U.S. intelligence community’s internal assessments track with its public statements.

But that, again, may be unwelcome for those who have devoted a year to a nothing-to-see-here line. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who fled Sweden after being accused of sexual assault, hinted at that conflict when he nonetheless declared that, “Alleged NSA whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner must be supported.”

“It doesn’t matter why she did it,” he added, “or the quality [of] the report.”

To some it does. Liberal activist David Swanson, for instance, was skeptical Winner’s alleged revelations would convince any skeptics. “Hey, @theintercept, you want proof? I’ve got your . . . um, vague evidence-free ‘assessments.’ Take that!” Winner, as some see it, risked and lost her liberty to leak a report that — the NSA internally lying to itself, presumably in the hopes a leak would happen — only furthers a deep-state push for a new Cold War.

Evan Greer, a campaigner with the group Fight for the Future, believes something else may be at play. “There is something extremely gendered about the way Reality Leigh Winner has been treated by the media and public vs. Edward Snowden,” she posted on Twitter. While many are focused on blame or exculpation for her arrest, “where’s the [conversation] about how Reality is brave as fuck [and] took a tremendous risk to expose something she thought the public needed to know?”

That conversation has been buried before it could begin by those with the platforms capable of starting it. In these times, we not only need more whistleblowers, but a new and better commitment to defending them, not waiting for the pundits once on the front lines to lead the charge again. Young idealists can do more than just leak what older generations wish to hide; they can and will lead the fights to which others, for reasons of dated ideology or ego, are unwilling to contribute.

They seem to get that.

“To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all,” said Edward Snowden, 33, in a statement that was ignored by those to whom he leaked.

Charles Davis is a writer in Los Angeles, California.

Tim Anderson’s Dirty War on Syria

By Brian Slocock

Assad regime supporter Tim Anderson, who is on the teaching staff of the University of Sydney, is organising a conference at the University entitled “After the War on Syria” on 18-19 April. This is presented with all the paraphernalia of an academic gathering, though I cannot comment on the political diversity or otherwise of the speakers and presenters. But I do recognise some familiar names from Anderson’s local entourage, and I see that one of the keynote speakers is Leith Fadel, editor of the vociferously pro- regime Al Masdar News.

I’m not concerned here with the Conference but rather with Anderson’s long standing attempt to project himself as an authority on the Syrian conflict with academic credentials. Anderson’s principal claim to authority is a book entitled The Dirty War on Syria, much of which first appeared as posts on the Global Research website. This work provides a handy conspectus of Anderson’s approach to the Syrian conflict and to knowledge in general. It merits a closer look.

Continue reading “Tim Anderson’s Dirty War on Syria”

Children’s trauma is a laughing matter—if you are Vanessa Beeley

by Amr Salahi

The notorious Assad regime propagandist Vanessa Beeley has been recently on a speaking tour of the UK. She has been showing up at small venues  in Bristol, Birmingham, and London to give a presentation entitled “Aleppo: Fall or Liberation”. These talks have been hosted by the Communist Party of Great Britain Marxist-Leninist (CPGB-ML), which openly supports and glorifies Josef Stalin. In Bristol, her talk was held at the Palestine Museum and attended by about 70 people.

The general gist of Beeley’s talk is similar to her published work on websites such as 21st Century Wire and Mint Press News. The rebels are non-Syrian terrorists from Al-Qaeda who commit atrocities against the population in the areas they hold; what is happening in Syria is part of a regime change conspiracy that has been in place since the 1980s involving the media, human rights organizations, and Western governments; Bashar Al-Assad’s army is the main humanitarian agent, providing Syrians in East Aleppo and other rebel-held areas it captured with relief and medical care.

Members of Syria Solidarity UK who attended Beeley’s presentation (two and a half hours ong) have provided a more detailed account of the meeting here. This article will only look at a few minutes of her talk, which encapsulate the maliciousness of her propaganda and how it is designed to make the targeting and murder of Syrian civilians acceptable to people who consider themselves “progressive” and “anti-imperialist”.

Continue reading “Children’s trauma is a laughing matter—if you are Vanessa Beeley”

Down the Alt-Right’s Syrian Rabbit Hole

How a Chemical Attack in 2013 set the Stage for Trump’s Post-Truth Presidency, and How We Can Fight Back.

On August 21st 2013 rumors of a massive chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel held suburb of Damascus began to emerge. A series of now famous videos which showed victims laid out on the floor shaking were uploaded. Over the next few day fragmentary details of a major sarin gas attack began to emerge in the western media. As  journalists started putting the pieces together an Austin based conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones went on air to present his own version of events with absolute certainty.

In retrospect the August 23rd episode of “The Alex Jones Show” is worth re watching, because it was a chilling precursor to the alt right movement that would shape how Donald Trump sees the world. Between segments hawking survivalist and pseudo medical products, listeners called in to speak with Jones. One caller ranted about fears that Obamacare death panels would kill his grandmother, Jones suggested Obama’s Muslim background made him a bad dog owner and a segment about the inappropriate conduct of the Clinton foundation ran (remember this was during the summer of 2013).

The the subject of Jones program that day was the sarin gas attack in Damascus, and he jumped right into it.

“The so-called US, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Chase, that run this country, along with the Sachs, Cobergs, Gothes, and others, the Queen of England, the Dutch Queen others, that’s the main folks that own it all. They are openly taking the funding away from Egypt, and I’m not defending foreign aide, but the point is they are taking it away becasue they aren’t doing what they are told to turn it over to jihadis to just wreck everything.”

Continue reading “Down the Alt-Right’s Syrian Rabbit Hole”

Russia Today and the post-truth virus

A video is circulating of a woman revealing “the truth” on Syria that is being withheld from us by “the mainstream media”. The woman is introduced as an “independent Canadian journalist”. She is said to be speaking  “at the UN”. The date is December 9, 2016. The video has become viral.

Eva Bartlett, the woman in the video, writes for various conspiracy sites including SOTT.net, The Duran, MintPress and Globalresearch.ca. But more recently she has emerged as a contributor to Russia Today. And though her wordpress blog is called “In Gaza”, and though she has a past in Palestine solidarity work, unlike the people of Gaza, she is a strong supporter of Assad and she uses language to describe Assad’s opponents that is a virtual echo of the language Israeli propagandists use against Gazans.

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This is the “I ❤️ Bashar” bracelet that “independent” journalist Eva Bartlett wore on her visit.

Bartlett was recently a guest of the Assad regime, attending a regime sponsored PR conference and going on a tour of regime-controlled areas herded no doubt by the ubiquitous minders (the regime only issues visas to trusted journalists and no visitor is allowed to travel without a regime minder). On her return, the regime mission at the UN organised a press conference for her and three members of the pro-regime US “Peace Council” (The organisation has the same relationship to peace as Kentucky Fried Chicken has to chicken). In the press conference they all repeated the claims usually made by the regime’s official media SANA and by Russia Today: all rebels are terrorists; there is no siege; civilians are being held hostage; the regime is a “liberator” etc.

So a conspiracy theorist with a blog who briefly visited Syria as a guest of the regime is declaring that everything you know about Syria is wrong. That you have been misled by everyone in the “MSM” from the New York Times to Der Spiegel, from the Guardian to the Telegraph, from CNN to Channel 4, from ABC to BBC, from CBS to CBC; that human rights organisations like Physicians for Human Rights, Medicins Sans Frontiers, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch; that international agencies like the UN and ICRC—they are all part of a vast conspiracy to malign Bashar al Assad. And the truth is only revealed on “alternative” media like the Kremlin’s own Russia Today! (watched by 70 million people a week according to its own claims)

Continue reading “Russia Today and the post-truth virus”

Robert Fisk’s crimes against journalism

Bullets and bombs it seems aren’t the only things doctors in Syria have to fear; they also have to endure the poisoned pens of regime friendly journalists.

A version of this article first appeared on The New Arab. It has since been updated with three case studies of Fisk’s journalistic malpractices. 

The Syrian war has been deadly for healthcare services. Physicians for Human Rights (P4HR) has recorded 382 attacks on medical facilities of which 344 were carried out by the regime and Russia; they were also responsible for 703 of the 757 medical personnel killed in the war. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both condemned their targeting of hospitals “as a strategy of war”.

In its report to the UN Human Rights Council last September, the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Syria wrote that the “pattern of attacks [by pro-regime forces], and in particular the repeated bombardments, strongly suggests that there has been deliberate and systematic targeting of hospitals and other medical facilities during this reporting period”.

The report adds: “Perhaps nowhere has the government assault on medical care been felt more strongly than in the opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo city and governorate, where at least 20 hospitals and clinics have reportedly been destroyed since January. By October 7, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had recorded “at least 23 attacks on eastern Aleppo’s eight remaining hospitals since the siege began in July”.

In this context when one of Britain’s more celebrated war correspondents—a person known for his acerbic diatribes against docile western journalists—enters Aleppo and sees a destroyed ambulance righteous fury is sure to erupt. And Fisk doesn’t disappoint. There is the familiar bombast of superlatives. Things are “ghostly”, “ghastly”, “frightening”, and “horribly relevant”.

But it is the object of Fisk’s fury that is a surprise. Fisk is not angry at an ambulance being bombed. Indeed, he heavily implies that the bombing was merited. Fisk devotes much of the article to implicating the Scottish charity that donated the ambulance. In his curious legal brief against medical aid, Fisk’s allies are not facts but suggestion, insinuation and innuendo. His method is insidious and part of a pattern. It merits closer scrutiny.

Continue reading “Robert Fisk’s crimes against journalism”

What I Saw on Oprius 10 (You’re Being Lied To)

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I just got back from this “barbaric alien slave planet” and what I found was shocking: we’re not being told the truth.

Children as young as 14 hours are ripped from their mother’s tentacles and forced to work 37 cycles straight in underground Calbazarite mines until their tiny withered bodies, still bound together by Gregorothian emotion-stabilizing mobilityrays, are shoveled out by the kiloton and tossed in unmarked disposal modules that are fired into the suns. Meanwhile, we’re told, Leader Rahsab’s personal envoy dines at 7-star restaurants, his harem of Alphanian gendermorphs injecting him with the galaxy’s finest proteins while, beneath the soil, his army of Mechatrons blasts away so-called “moderate” resistance caves.

We’ve all heard these stories, just like we all heard the story about Itarkian security forces devouring humanoid offspring as they slept in their interdimensional space-time inhibitors. Only after the New Alliance of Coequal Aliens removed their Supreme Being did we learn that was a total lie, manufactured by a public relations planet enslaved the Kuwangians who — you probably didn’t hear — had been trying and failing to build a warp portal through Itarkian space.

First, let me be clear: I don’t believe Leader Rahsab is infallible. I, personally, believe this mild-mannered gaseous cloud has made mistakes. Destroying Oprius 7, the famed artist colony, was not ideal, in my opinion, only aiding the interplanetary campaign of defamation which, of course, never addressed what “peaceful” gammachord players were doing with Kuwangian shape-shifting technology. But I also understand why, amid a NACA-backed insurgency attracting mercenaries from around the cosmos, he felt the need to send a message. NACA would have done the same thing.

And what I really know for sure? That the last thing the Oreckians need is a change in Eternal Hierarchy imposed by a solar system 90 million light years away and sold on the basis of a corrupt, Earth-based opposition’s lies and the tales of Oprian “refugees” who claim they escaped the mineral deposits but, curiously, display none of the signs of Calbazarite Syndrome. That’s why I decided to accept Leader Rahsab’s invitation to spend five cycles touring Oprius 10. What I can say now You’re being lied to.

I expected the outrageous smears the moment I agreed to hear the perspective of a “brutal confederation,” but one doesn’t go into journalism expecting pleasantries and generous fiber rations. I wanted to hear their side; clearly, whether . Surely if dissatisfaction were as high as claimed by the mainstream news algorithms I would see it and those famed (but always conveniently “disappeared”) dissidents during my visit.

What I saw in the Historic Quadrant of Damackulous Y was instead, normal — disappointingly so for those believing NACA’s planted newsbytes about all that (manufactured) dissent. Intelligent lifeforms wore clothes that they bought on Amazon. Local injection labs had all the brands and flavors I knew from back home. Most of the people I saw were rather shy, seeking to shift the conversation away from politics and back to my drink order, but Oreckian system tribes are known for their wariness of strangers.

At an Irish pub, I heard from an Oprian female about how her husband had been tricked into fighting for confederation change, believing the same lies we Talangs have been told about the attractiveness of Northern sector-style “liberties” — to anti-socially fret over what to do with one’s consciousness, instead of having that rationally decided for you — and the unilateral consensus process laid out in the Leader’s Chartreuse Communication. Through a reconciliation deal offered by the confederation’s social justice minister, he agreed to be cremated in exchange for a small stipend off which she now lives. Yes, life can be hard, she confided, but — glancing nervously at my state-provided translator to make sure he was getting every word — life in the mines had given her and her children the structure they sorely lacked in “liberated” zones, where she wasn’t even allowed to work, much less required to.

While I would like to have seen more, after a drugged Orian male shrieked at me to take his identity chip without authorization — he was neutralized by security forces after a reading of his right — it was decided on my behalf that I should go. And that’s the Oreckian way: Capable superiors decide things like this for you, leaving more time for life. The Oreckians, like any other people, should be allowed to decide their system of governance, and Leader Rahasab has made that decision for them. We may not always understand their ways, but that doesn’t mean we should try to impose ours on them.

Remember Itark?

Charles Davis is a reporterbot from the Talang system. Their work is presented in 400 billion minds.