Jan 02, 2018

Reality Winner and the surveillance state

New York magazine has a good profile on Reality Winner (a), the NSA leaker who released a top-secret report of Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

A particularly poignant bit:

If her case goes to trial as scheduled in March, it will be watched by a growing class of intelligence professionals burdened by knowledge of a surveillance state, its programs and excesses, its featureless physical structures. They will watch as Reality’s lawyers struggle to defend her, because she likely will not be able to argue that leaking evidence of Russian interference in an American election is in the interest of the American public. In recent Espionage Act cases, prosecutors have successfully argued that the intention of the leaker is irrelevant, as is the perceived or actual value of the leak to the public. Accused, Reality finds herself trapped in this strange logic of secrecy, in which her dutiful discretion with members of her family is taken to be evidence that her family cannot defend her character, and the only room in which her intentions do not matter is the one in which she is set to be tried.

Also The Intercept really dropped the ball on its OPSEC. So think twice before engaging with them on anything sensitive:

On May 30, according to court filings, an unnamed reporter sent pictures of the document to a contractor for the U.S. government and told the contractor that they’d been postmarked in Augusta. The contractor initially said that the documents were fake but, after checking with someone at the NSA, reported that they were real ...

On June 5, under the headline “Top Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election” and bylined by four reporters, the Intercept published a scan of the leaked document with some redactions. The document it had incidentally given to the NSA — which had then sent it to the FBI — and which was now freely available on the internet, shows creases that suggest it was printed, folded, and carried, rather than submitted online. It contains watermarks indicating that it was printed on May 9, 2017, at 6:20 a.m., from a printer with the serial number 535218 or 29535218. The NSA knew, from its internal surveillance, that only six people had printed the document. Of those six, only one had emailed the Intercept asking for a transcript of a podcast.