The Government’s Argument that Reality Winner Harmed National Security Doesn’t Hold Up. Here’s Why.

https://theintercept.com/2018/08/23/reality-winner-sentenced-leak-election-hacking

The real Deep State…

WHISTLEBLOWER REALITY WINNER was officially sentenced to 63 months in prison on Thursday, after a federal judge rubber-stamped a plea deal already agreed to by the prosecution and Winner’s lawyers. As the prosecution acknowledged, it is the longest sentence for a journalist’s source in federal court history.

After listening to the agency’s arguments, and out of an abundance of caution, The Intercept redacted a few pieces of information from the document before publishing it.

A key phrase that the government wanted withheld was the specific name of the Russian unit identified in the document. The government was particularly insistent on that point.

But in the indictment of alleged Russian military intelligence operatives that Mueller’s office released last month, the Justice Department revealed the same name: GRU unit 74455. (The unit is also known as the Main Center for Special Technology or GTsST.) The indictment went on to reveal information almost identical to that contained in the document Winner admits to disclosing…

In the indictment of the alleged Russian intelligence officers, the Special Counsel’s Office describes how the FBI itself tipped off the GRU unit to the U.S. surveillance almost a year before The Intercept published the NSA document.

The federal government kept several states allegedly targeted by hackers in the dark about the specifics of these attacks until The Intercept published its story.

In fact, the day after The Intercept’s story came out, the Election Assistance Commission — the federal agency in charge of assisting state election officials — wrote an urgent bulletin to states, calling the report “credible” and urging state officials to read it. The EAC then provided advice on how to take action. (The commission, unbelievably, tweeted the hashtag #RealityWinner to promote its bulletin on social media).

If you want to understand how the government classifies virtually any information in the national security space, no matter how benign, just read this recent account from BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold about an “illegal animal killing” on CIA property involving a government employee. After Leopold got wind of an Inspector General report on the subject, he filed a FOIA request for more information. The CIA stonewalled him and withheld the IG report on the incident in full, claiming it would “harm national security” to release it — or even to disclose the type of animal that was killed.

So Leopold sued. Three years later, the government finally relented and revealed that the animal in question was a deer. The rest of the report remains classified.

Photo by Dustin Chambers for The Intercept — Reality Winner walks out of the courthouse in Augusta, Ga., after her sentencing on Aug. 23, 2018.

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