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Who, or what is Reality Winner?

June 7, 2017

It seems as though this 25-year-old political activist has puzzled the press. Really?

As news of a real live, breathing leaker hit the airwaves, the press on both sides of the aisle cheered.  Readership was going to remain high.

The left crowed that the leaked document “proved” that the Russians had rigged the election.

The right, not to be outdone, turned up the volume on the “See? We  told you there were government-employed leakers working to overthrow the government.”

What if neither one is the real story?

In the current political environment skepticism comes naturally. People are looking beyond the clickbait headlines (like the one used in this post, for instance) at the timing and handling of this alleged bombshell.

First there is the breaking news itself, namely that some Trump-hating 25-year-old NSA analyst had gotten her grubby little mitts on a classified document, waltzed out the door with it and leaked it to The Intercept.

The first question is being asked is why?  Why not MSNBC, or CNN or some other mainstream  outlet? Is she just a natural born troublemaker?  Does her life lack meaning, and this is how she chose to make herself relevant? Does she have a connection of some sort to someone at the Intercept?

The Intercept, launched in 2014, is owned by one Pierre Omidyar,  the creator of EBay and First Look Media. Forbes listed his net worth at $8.9 billion on June 6 of this year in a biographical piece.

It’s editorial board includes Glen Greenawalt, formerly of the Guardian,  Betsy Reed and Jeremy Cahill.  The publication was created to focus on the NSA story for starters. It was also the online original source for the so-called Snowden papers.

That’s quite a pedigree to consider when assessing the Intercept’s role in the leak. Then there is the Hollywood-esgue name of the leaker, Reality Leigh Winner. No publicist could have come up with a better one.

And then there is the question of timing. This story came out four days before ex-Director James Comey is set to go before Congress to tell what he knows about “obstruction of justice.”

Strangely, the document, with redactions, is freely available on Intercept’s website, meaning it will live forever in the cloud. So much for source anonymity.

The document in question received near real-time verification from the NSA, despite the potentially damaging information it contains and the level of porosity it shows in their internal security protocols. That’s not something that an intelligence agency would normally want spread around.

In tone, it reminds one of the now infamous, “she’s stupid but not guilty” press briefing Comey gave on the Clinton email investigation in July 2016.

It certainly gave the press something to talk about other than ex-director Comey’s appearance before Congress. That may be a waste of time anyway, since ABC is already leaking information from the usual unnamed sources that Comey will not accuse the President of obstructing justice. Almost anything else maybe, but not that.

It seems just a little too convenient.

President Trump may well ruin his historic win on his own with his ill-managed social media habit, if he hasn’t already.

Still, with even Republicans damning him with faint praise, it isn’t hard to understand why he fights back with the only weapon at his disposal.

He is up against a city full of people who have forgotten more about engineering political destruction than he and his entire family will ever know.

But sometimes, even they could overreach. Time will tell whether the fallout from the leaked NSA document will cost the country more than we can afford to lose.

From → op-ed

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