This story about Reality Winner — currently recovering from COVID while doing a 5-year bit in federal prison — is heartbreaking and infuriating. Her most crucial mistake was believing that Glenn Greenwald was telling the truth when he kept claiming that he was an open-minded skeptic on Russia’s election ratfucking who Of Course Supported A Full Investigation:
Ms. Winner may have thought she was mailing the documents to Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Poitras, who went to great lengths to protect Mr. Snowden. But Mr. Greenwald was in Brazil and when he heard about the document, he was not interested. He told me that he considered its claims about Russian hacking during the 2016 race “wildly overblown” and that it didn’t include direct evidence to persuade him otherwise.
You can hardly expect someone making a mere half-million a year to have time to deal with a trivial story like “an authoritarian regime undermining the American electoral process on behalf of a fellow white nationalist authoritarian” — let him know when there’s a real story, like a misogynist sociopath running to be a minority backbencher in the Kansas state legislature to go to the barricades for.
Now of course those of us who are familiar with Glenn’s body of work would have known perfectly well that he would have no interest in anything produced by a whistleblower that didn’t confirm his priors — he was Julian Assange’s hype man during the 2016 campaign because of their shared interest in Donald Trump winning. But you can’t expect everyone to be this familiar with his shtick. Greenwald had a responsibility to at the very least ensure that Winner’s identity was protected even if he didn’t want to write the story. Needless to say, this didn’t happen, and the story was passed on to the Keystone Kops division of the Intercept, who gave Winner’s identity directly to the NSA:
All the drama would make this another colorful story about extreme newsroom dysfunction had The Intercept not caught the attention of a naïve National Security Agency linguist with the improbable name of Reality Winner in 2017. Ms. Winner, then 25, had been listening to the site’s podcast. She printed out a secret report on Russian cyberattacks on American voting software that seemed to address some of Mr. Greenwald’s doubts aboutRussian interference in the 2016 campaignand mailed it to The Intercept’s Washington, D.C., post office box in early May.
The Intercept scrambled to publish a story on the report, ignoring the most basic security precautions. The lead reporter on the story sent a copy of the document, which contained markings that showed exactly where and when it had been printed, to the N.S.A. media affairs office, all but identifying Ms. Winner as the leaker.
Heckuva job! In fairness, at least after the fact Greenwald was part of the faction that thought someone at the Intercept should be held accountable for burning Winter, which needless to say didn’t happen.
There’s a lot more background in Kerry Howley’s comprehensive story from a couple years ago. What a sad story.