The Justice Department and the FBI have caught their first major leaker in the Trump administration, a 25-year-old liberal named Reality Leigh Winner.
For the Justice Department and perhaps President Donald Trump himself, the arrest on Monday is a major victory in the newly declared crackdown on leaks.
Unauthorized disclosures have pummeled the Trump White House since the president took office. Leakers have shared with the press transcripts of calls Trump made to Mexican, Filipino and Australian heads of state; copies of Trump’s 2005 tax returns; details of Trump’s meetings with Russian leaders; and more.
Some of the leaks are not likely criminal matters: The New York Times and The Washington Post have received numerous leaks about Trump's life in the White House, as well as stories of palace intrigue. Still, Trump has pledged to find and fire all leakers who discuss such issues with the press without authorization.
But the arrest of Winner raises many questions about how likely leaders and anti-Trump activists within the federal government have not been found already. Winner was active on Twitter and Facebook, and let it be known she did not like the president. She tweeted she would "#resist," and that she opposed the Dakota Access pipeline and the president's proposed southern-border wall.
She also retweeted a commentary from Russia Today's Lee Camp that "Millennials Are Sick Of Capitalism But Democratic Party Doesn’t Get It."
The subject of her leak was Russian hacking into the election, although Winner was apparently eager to show that the Russians tried to hack into U.S. election systems — not just campaign email accounts. The NSA document she leaked detailed some Russian attempts to, unsuccessfully, get into the software of U.S. voter equipment.
The arrest of Winner augurs a more complicated war on leaks than first thought. The conventional wisdom is that most of the leaks that have plagued the Trump White House have come from offices in Washington, D.C. — perhaps the White House and the other executive office buildings on the Pennsylvania Avenue campus.
Government workers who once worked for President Barack Obama were suspected, and still are.
But Winner is not that. She is a young liberal who was first hired by a private contractor, Pluribus International Corp., in February. Winner, an Air Force veteran with top-secret clearance, is located in Augusta, Georgia.
Her location raises the possibility that the Trump administration now faces thousands of potential leakers across the nation, many of them liberals with top-secret clearance, perhaps working as government contractors for the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI and other agencies. Motivated by ideology and inspired by other rogue government workers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, Trump could face a cascade of leaks that outpace what he has so far faced in Washington, D.C.
The dilemma has been referred to for weeks as Trump's "deep state" problem. "Deep state" means longtime government employees, principally from the intelligence community, who have an agenda to undermine their own president using leaks and policy decisions they can make.
After leaking to The Intercept, a left-wing website known for its anti-secrecy stance, Winner went weeks without detection. But as The Intercept contacted government officials to verify the documents that Winner sent them, the FBI began to be able to narrow down the possibilities. The big giveaway, according to media reports, was a colored dot on the papers.
Even copies and scans of the document are able to pass on identifying information because of small-sized information in the dot. Federal agents were able to track the custody chain of the documents, and confronted Winner.
Winner has decided not to put up much of a fight. She admitted to printing the document and sending it to The Intercept, according to media reports. Federal agents have also found correspondence to The Intercept on her work computer, according to reports.
Her arrest is bound to raise question as to why she received she received top-secret clearance, given that Winner said:
- Being white is terrorism.
- Trump is a piece of "s***" for approving the Dakota Access pipeline project.
- She would stand with Iran if President Trump declared war on the Middle Eastern nation.
Winner was also clearly to the left of most democrats. She supported the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21 and supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent socialist from Vermont, for president.
It was all this ideology that apparently led Winner to leak information to The Intercept, hoping to embarrass Trump.
Capitol Hill Republicans said it was just and right for the FBI to start rounding up people who took it upon themselves to leak information to the media based on ideological concerns.
"I want people in handcuffs, and I want to see people behind bars," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, speaking to Fox News.
Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 8:18 am