(TFC)— The mother of former NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Reality Leigh Winner recently offered a chilling message to her daughter’s supporters. Winner is accused of leaking documents related to Russian tampering into the 2016 election and is currently in federal custody. According to her mother, President Donald Trump is making an example of his first whistleblower as NSA watches anyone standing in her defense.
“Somebody has to tell the American people that this is not her”, says Billie Winner-Davis, mother of whistleblower Reality Winner. The former Texas Child Protective Services employee is referring to a narrative painting her daughter as a national threat. “I want people to really pay attention”, Winner-Davis said according to Law.com, “I want the courts to know people are watching.”
Reality Winner was arrested last year by FBI as part of an investigation into documents leaked to The Intercept. Operating under First Look Media, The Intercept has swiftly become a hallmark outlet in independent journalism. Among its ranks are such names as Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Matthew Cole, and other renowned journalists.
This case, however, brought some critique due to claims that the outlet’s communications a source weren’t secure. The Intercept prides itself as a safe place for sources with sensitive information to go for secure publication. Whether an incidental mistake or something else the result was the same—the 25-year-old contractor is in jail.
The former NSA contractor leaked documents suggesting hackers of Russia origin conducted a cyber assault on a US voting supplier, and sent corrupted emails to election officials. The secret documents revealed that Russian hackers, which NSA believed worked under intelligence agencies, perhaps accessed more voting information than previously thought. As national controversy spun off into federal investigations, the leak fueled suspicions that the 2016 election was muddied by foreign involvement.
Onlookers used how quickly federal entities found a suspect as evidence that The Intercept dropped the ball. Since being initially detained, Reality Winner has been denied bail and painted a spy, traitor, environmental-extremist, and anything else which might sway opinion of a case most Americans remain unaware of.
Her mother notes the Trump Administration resorted to using social media posts months before the documents were leaked against Winner. Although the 25-year-old expressed some disagreements with Donald Trump’s presidency online, these weren’t extreme and are protected as free speech. Where the government’s legal arguments become questionable, Billie Winner-Davis, The Intercept, and Reality Winner’s defense see a complex propaganda-based character assassination.
Winner-Davis also warns her daughter’s online supporters of the specter of NSA surveillance. “I’ve been told getting involved with Reality means you’re on their radar”, she warned according to Law.com. Online advocates “have to realize that everything they write her is being scanned, their name is being put into a computer and they are being researched.”
The government has attempted to use Winner’s prior Air Force service, dishonorable discharge, and desire for a job overseas as part of their case. The former contractor’s mother, however, states Reality wanted to do humanitarian work.
As it stands, Reality Leigh Winner is being held indefinitely and without bail. She’s also the first whistleblower to be burned at the stake under the Trump Administration. Even in the unlikely event she escapes prosecution, a clear message has been sent. Speak out or talk to the press, and you’ll get what she’s having. In an era where indefinite detention and political surveillance or intimidation is becoming a reality, the Winner case is poised to set some disturbing precedents.