I see we're still treating Reality Winner as if she were a "whistleblower"

Reality Winner, last seen working out in an orange prison jump suit, is facing a lengthy trial and potentially much longer stretch as a guest of Uncle Sam in the crowbar motel. But her supporters around the country (yes… amazingly she has quite a few of them) aren’t going quietly into that good night. A move is underway by the publication which received the NSA leaker’s confidential documents to “make up for their shortcomings” in protecting her identity. They will be providing a legal defense fund for her and ensuring that future betrayer’s of the nation aren’t so easily located and arrested. This is drawing high praise from the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan.

Now, having taken a deep look at what happened, the Intercept has adopted some reforms, and its parent company is helping a young whistleblower who has been charged under the Espionage Act.

“It’s been an in­cred­ibly wrenching period here, and it was necessary to take the time to do a thorough review of what happened,” Intercept Editor in Chief Betsy Reed told me…

First Look’s Press Freedom Defense Fund will pay for a law firm to support her current defense lawyers. And it will give $50,000 in matching funds to Stand With Reality, a grass-roots crowdfunding campaign intended to increase public awareness and support legal work for the young whistleblower.

Winner has been charged under the 100-year-old Espionage Act, the same arcane law that the Obama administration began using to charge leakers, including Snowden.

Here’s a golden quote from someone else referenced in the article: “The First Amendment, not the Espionage Act, should be the framework for viewing the act of whistleblowing.”

That statement might have at least a bit of merit (provided it’s applied with caution and an eye toward national security) provided we were actually talking about a case of whistleblowing. But when it comes to Reality Winner, we’re not. One commonly referenced definition of a whistleblower holds that they are, “a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public.” You can quibble over the wording if you like, but that’s the basic gist of it. Someone who is inside of an organization and discovers that the organization or some person or persons inside of it is engaged in illegal or improper behavior and brings that information to light.

That’s not what Reality Winner allegedly did. She was entrusted with highly classified information dealing with international intrigue and sworn to protect it as part of the organization’s mission to protect American interests. The agency was investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the American electoral system and had uncovered data about possible hacking activity. If the charges are proven, she released that information to the press where it provided nothing of value to the public beyond a tool for partisan political gain. The bad actors in this case were the Russians. The agency was in the process of attempting to get to the bottom of it and was under no obligation to make that information public while the investigation was ongoing. Letting the cat out of the bag early could do nothing but endanger possible sources and scuttle their chances of solving the mystery.

Reality Winner did nothing but do damage to the nation’s interests. Assuming she is found guilty, she is no hero, any more than Chelsea Manning was. She acted in a fashion which amounted to treason. So let’s stop with all of the fake patriotic flag waving and crying over how unfairly she is supposedly being treated. She’s entitled to the best legal defense she can muster just like any other person accused of a crime, but she’s no whistleblower. Stop trying to make her into a hero.

Ed Morrissey Jan 28, 2022 8:31 AM ET