Ms. Reality Winner’s leak was not the stupidest thing (in my experience) done by a person with a security clearance. That trophy goes to the man (a civilian Navy employee) who sent a threatening letter to the President and included his return address. But Ms. Winner comes close. NSA discovered only six people had downloaded her leaked material, making sifting the suspects easy. But why did she do it? One reason is obvious, the others, less so.
Obvious reason: She hates President Trump. She likely spent much of her time since the election watching MSNBC and binge-reading hysterical articles about the Evil One.
Her emotions fully charged, she turned to the one tool she had to smack Trump with (the NSA documents), and clicked on the ‘download’ button.
First not-so-obvious reason: Her generation, and females in particular, had spent their formative years hearing how they had to ‘change the world’, ‘make a difference’, etc. This is embodied in the goofy ‘Fearless Girl’ statue on Wall Street. Hands on hips and chin up, she stares down the Bull statue (Bull as in ‘bull market’).
Ms. Winner was fearless too. That is until the FBI showed up on her doorstep and hauled her away. Her parents say she’s scared now.
I suppose none of Ms. Winner’s teachers explained how ‘changing the world’ and ‘making a difference’ weren’t good ideas if they involved a possible ten-year stretch in the federal penitentiary. Oops.
True knowledge of one’s self comes through understanding one’s limitations.
But you wouldn’t realize this if you read books such as Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted. It’s one in a long line of self-esteem screeds to ‘empower’ girls and young women. Tellingly, Family Circle magazine praised the book, stating “[It] will remind little girls that they can achieve their goals if they don’t let obstacles get in the way.” [Emphasis mine.]
Is the law against leaking classified documents a mere obstacle? Is this why Ms. Winner’s parents said she was surprised when the FBI arrived? After all, Ms. Winner’s goal was to shame President Trump – why should the law stop her from achieving it?
Second non-obvious reason: Leaking has an aura of glamour now. Consider Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.
He’s applied for asylum in France, but they said no. If he steps outside the embassy, the London Metropolitan police will arrest him on an outstanding warrant. If he travels to Sweden before August 2020, he’ll be arrested on sexual assault charges.
The glamour? If you Google the name ‘Julian’, his pops up first – that counts for a lot in our digital age. His tweets are followed, and he’s quoted endlessly. Need I say more?
Meanwhile, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, a buddy of Assange’s, was released last month from solitary confinement in the Fort Leavenworth prison. In his term’s final weeks, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence of 35 years for providing over 700,000 diplomatic cables and classified documents to WikiLeaks. Note that Manning did not receive a pardon, and as such is ineligible for veterans’ benefits.
While in Leavenworth, Manning came out as a woman, and the ACLU fought to have the Army provide Manning with female hormones. Now that Manning is free, the Army’s no longer picking up the tab for transgender therapy. And Manning’s newsworthiness (a sort of glamour) is fading fast.
Last, but not least, is Edward Snowden – another former employee of an NSA contractor (Booz Allen) and another Assange pal. In May 2013, just a month after he started working at an NSA center in Hawaii, he called in sick. But he wasn’t sick – he was on a plane to Hong Kong with a bagful of very highly classified information. Assange helped him with his flight arrangements.
Snowden shared bits of information to several journalists in Hong Kong; then disappeared. On June 14, 2013, the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint against him; the State Department later revoked his passport. Nevertheless, on June 23, he took an Aeroflot flight (an airline owned by the Russian government) for Moscow.
President Obama did not pardon Snowden despite intense lobbying by the far left and an affectionate bio-pic by Oliver Stone. Obama’s administration claimed that a commutation for Manning was appropriate, as he had gone through a military tribunal and was found guilty. Snowden, however, has never submitted himself for a U.S. trial as he remains in Russia.
Glamour? In April 2013, Snowden was a Dilbert in a cubicle. In 2016 he became available on DVD and streaming video, thanks to Oliver Stone.
Was Reality Winner fearless? No, because she never connected how achieving her goal and bolstering her self-esteem would result in a knock on the door by the FBI. And the glamour of leaking? Despite support from Assange and Snowden, her cluelessness makes glamour highly unlikely. No Oliver Stone material here. (Hint to Reality: steer clear of Assange and Snowden, they can’t help you.)
I expect Winner will go through the justice system, and like Manning, she’ll fade away, waiting for the next Democrat president to commute her sentence at the end of their term. Welcome to reality, Ms. Winner.