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

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.


In the 1950s, for example, the National Lawyers Guild, an association of progressive lawyers formed as an alternative to the segregated, anti–New Deal American Bar Association, was preparing a report detailing the FBI’s illegal wiretaps and dirty tricks. The FBI, after discovering the plan through its surveillance of the organization, drafted a report asserting that the National Lawyers Guild was an agent of Moscow. Only a tool of the Soviet Union, after all, would assert that the FBI engaged in illegal surveillance. The House Un-American Activities Committee published the report under its own name.

A couple decades later, the hubris of HUAC’s most famous alum — forever immortalized in his utterance “when the president does it that means it’s not illegal” — would send scholars scrambling for a new term to describe Nixon’s power grabs. Arthur Schlesinger Jr responded with the idea of the imperial presidency.

Two key components of Schlesinger’s concept were the president’s increasingly unilateral war-making — Nixon bombed Cambodia without congressional authorization — and the political uses of intelligence. The FBI is not merely a law enforcement agency; it is also an intelligence agency. Its domestic intelligence capabilities are the direct fruit of its role as a political police, and have been useful for thwarting domestic antiwar sentiment.

With his brazen actions, Nixon crossed an important threshold. He investigated his establishment opponents and illegally surveilled his counterparts in the Democratic Party. His crime was not subverting the democratic process — electoral subterfuge, suppression, and criminal prosecution of radical groups were and are a venerable American tradition — but instead harassing elected Democrats.

The Imperial Bureau


This kind of policing toward Muslim Americans exists because the public has countenanced it. Our tax dollars fund it. In many ways, Americans have acquiesced to the idea that “our safety” requires vigilance, which means more monitoring, more investigations, more preemptive prosecution. While many people have decried the indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim communities, there remains a widespread willingness to see certain kinds of ideas as dangerous. Armed with our fears, we allow this aggressive law enforcement, rarely having to look the consequences or these young people in the eye when we do.

“I Feel Like a Despised Insect”: Coming of Age Under Surveillance in New York


This is just one example.

A software programmer who went to college in the US happens to be a Muslim Immigrant from Pakistan. He applies for a green card. The FBI gets hold of the application and holds it hostage, asking him to provide names of people he thinks are terrorists, without any evidence of his knowledge of suspicious/terrorist activity. With his green card application on hold for 5 years and his work visa about to expire, he sues the DHS, USCIS & FBI. Soon after, his work visa is revoked.

A.M. got in touch with [Charles] Swift, the lawyer who had fought against military tribunals [and won], who arranged a meeting at the Department of Homeland Security offices in Dallas.

It was there, tucked away in a room in a long, low-slung office building, that the officers pushed A.M. to become a secret informant. “They would want me to wear a wire,” he recalled, “go to my friends in the masjid, the mosque, talk about jihad, encourage them to fight or something, and then ask me to witness against them for provoking them. I can’t do that.”

He said he pleaded with the agents. “Is there something that you know about me? Then tell me. If there is something you think I have done wrong then tell me.” They didn’t answer. Instead, they told him that if he did not agree to their offer, he and his family would no longer be welcome in America.

Swift ended the meeting. Within hours, one of the agents called him and asked which flight his client would be on.

A.M. and his family sold what possessions they could, and two weeks later, they left the country that for 17 years he had called home.

If you are a Muslim immigrant seeking US citizenship, the FBI is the Stasi.


In the FBI’s rule book: entrapment, withholding evidence, making a defendant lie in court in return for a milder charge/sentence. “Anna” in the following excerpt is the informant who carried out the entrapment.

When “Anna” met McDavid, he was a 24-year-old college student. He left his home in northern California to backpack across the country and attend various conferences and protests. There was nothing “Anna” found to be threatening about him. The two even developed a “physical relationship” with each other. But, since McDavid and friends he was living with, who would be charged as “co-conspirators,” fit the profile of individuals the FBI wanted “Anna” to target, she kept after them.

“Anna relentlessly pressured McDavid and his friends to plan ‘an action,’ literally herding them together for this purpose,” his lawyers maintain. “She implanted ideas, hounded them, and plied them with money, food, and shelter. When the group showed a lack of enthusiasm for her schemes, she would hound them to stay focused, and pout, sulk, belittle and berate them, calling them names like ‘dilly-dallyers.’” And the “FBI’s behavioral analysis unit trained her to make Eric ‘wait’ until ‘after the mission,’ before she would consummate their love in reward for his faithfulness to her plan.”

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