Reality Winner was the FBI’s ‘head on a pike’ for Trump. It’s time to set her free. …My column, pegged to a new documentary that makes her mistreatment painfully clear https://t.co/rH1M3sY9Ru
— ?? Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) May 12, 2021
Margaret Sullivan, at the Washington Post:
At 25, Reality Leigh Winner was a remarkable young woman. Fluent in Farsi and other languages spoken in Iraq and Afghanistan, she was, in 2017, a decorated Air Force veteran working as a contractor for the National Security Agency.
She was more than smart enough to see something significant, and alarming, in a classified document on Russia’s efforts to hack into election-related websites and voter-registration databases in the United States. She thought it was something the public should know about.
But she also made some unwise decisions.
She anonymously mailed a copy of a single document to the investigative news organization the Intercept. But despite that outlet’s reputation for taking top-secret information and turning it into news stories, its staffers didn’t take all the precautions that might have protected their source. Then, when a fleet of FBI agents showed up at her home, Winner didn’t insist on first consulting a lawyer.
Soon, she was indicted under the Espionage Act and eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count of transmission of national defense information. No one has ever received a longer sentence, more than five years, for leaking classified information to a media outlet.
A heartbreaking — and infuriating — new documentary about how the Trump Justice Department went after her reinforced my long-held belief that, although her prison term is due to end in November, it’s high time for our government to set Winner free.
The centerpiece of “United States vs. Reality Winner” is an appalling audio recording that the filmmakers obtained through a Freedom of Information request. We hear the voices of the FBI agents who blindsided her, failing to inform her of her Miranda rights. This was in the wake of James B. Comey’s promise to President Donald Trump that he’d pursue those who gave inside information to the media, according to the former FBI director’s own memo about a February 2017 meeting in the Oval Office…
President Biden could send her home a few months early. That wouldn’t make things right — but it would help.