NSA leaker charged

Well, "leaker" is a misnomer.  She's a traitor, a spy, an oathbreaker, and ultimately a very stupid young woman.

At the most basic level, she stole classified documents and gave them to an unauthorized person.  She did it for one of the four primary motivations of espionage (sometimes referred to as MICE) in that she was ideologically motivated.  Like Jonathan Pollard, she will have supporters who will say she was a patriot, just trying to help save her country.  And like Pollard's supporters, hers will be wrong.  She is a traitor who put her own motives ahead of the interests of her nation, her oaths, her integrity, and her future.  Make no mistake, Reality Winner (yes, that's actually her name) has destroyed her future in order to score some political points.  She sold out sources and methods the NSA uses to defend ALL of us in order to make "#NotHerPresident" look bad.  And the worst thing is, what she stole didn't even prove what she probably thought it proved.

The document in question reveals that Russians hacked into voter registration data at a third party contractor.  Not to change it, nor to change vote totals, but effectively to steal identities.  In other words, nothing that could influence the 2016 election.  And this stupid, stupid person decided that the law, her oaths, national security, her integrity, and her very future were unimportant enough that she should steal that information and release it to someone who would make sure the Russians (remember them?) would know we know they did it.  An action which helps them to figure out how WE knew, which shuts down an avenue of intelligence gathering, or even potentially gets an actual live person KILLED (never forget the true cost of espionage; it's not "documents" or "words", it's actual lives).

I do feel some small pity for her.  She ruined her own life with her stupidity.  And worse, she did it to reveal a document that still does not show what she thought it did (the Russians hacked the election and made it so Trump won).  But mostly I feel anger.  She knew better.  She had mandated yearly training that told her that she would be caught, that told her the consequences of being caught, that told her how stupid her idea was.  But she ignored all that, betrayed her employer, her co-workers, her friends, and her nation... all in an effort to score political points (which she failed to even do).  Pathetic.


Grim said...

In other words, nothing that could influence the 2016 election.

That's a little strong as a conclusion. It may have been one step in a successful attack; we don't know, based on this document, whether or not that was the case.

Grim said...

That said, I don't disagree with your general conclusion that this was espionage. It's not really "treason," though. It's not giving aid or comfort to an enemy, nor is it waging war against the United States. It will, however, damage our faith in the election system if new steps are not taken to ensure that vote counts are legitimate in the future.

Which, voting machines that are wireless/Bluetooth are just not a good idea. Electronic voting is itself dubious, although possibly it could be made accountable with some sort of blockchain technology. (That would undercut the secret ballot, though.) Paper ballots are another option; or at least electronic voting machines that you can't remotely control, so that you would have to gain physical access to each one in every polling location you wanted to affect.

MikeD said...

My point was, the document does not show a smoking gun. In fact, it shows we know they hacked into a contractor. Could that hack be a stepping stone to another hack? Sure. But that's not in the document she stole. If a document showing a link or further hack DID exist, it seems that she would have stolen THAT document instead. But she did not. And perhaps it's a bit of inference on my part that the fact that she did not steal an actual smoking gun document and instead settled for the one she did steal indicates it's likely that there is no such document. Yes, it's inference, or supposition. I call it analysis which was actually my job, so...

But I will concede, I have no proof that there is no such document. I simply cannot prove a negative, and even if I could prove that such a document DID exist, that would imply that I had access to classified materials, and would need to commit an illegal act like she did to prove it. But I do not, I cannot, and I would not. So that point is also moot.

You are correct in that "she's not legally a traitor". A word chosen in passion, not logic. Though I will say that the amount of daylight between espionage and treason is very small to me. If the Russians are our enemy (as the Left certainly is currently positing, after having mocked Romney for making the same claim in 2012), then revealing our sources and methods to them surely counts as giving an enemy aid, does it not?

And her intent on who she revealed classified data to is irrelevant. The KGB absolutely did convince some spies that they were selling secrets to neutral third countries, and not the Soviets. But those spies were still giving the data to the Soviets, intend be damned. Giving classified data to the press gets it in the hands of America's enemies just as surely as selling it directly to those enemies does. And pretending otherwise is something else that infuriates me. The claims that Manning didn't help Al-Qaida because he gave his classified materials to Wikileaks is weak tea (the most family friendly term I could conjure here; I'd REALLY prefer something more vulgar). Al-Qaida (and in this case, the Russians) are not incapable of operating a web browser, and any information you give to the press will end up in their hands, without a doubt.

Grim said...

Manning really is a traitor, I think, because he really did aid and comfort America's enemies -- by which I mean people actually killing our soldiers and Marines in Iraq and elsewhere.

It's a small distinction, maybe, but treason is a capital crime. To say that someone is a traitor is to say that they deserve, in justice, to die. Leftists who say that "Trump is a traitor!" are calling for the death of the President, or at least suggesting that his death would be justice. Manning should have been shot by a firing squad. I don't think Reality Winner should be; that wouldn't strike me as justice.

On the other hand, you're quite right that this does real damage to our collection efforts. Serious punishment should certainly follow for her breach of her oath and faith. I just think it's worth maintaining the distinction, and not merely as a matter of legal technicality.

MikeD said...

It's a small distinction, maybe, but treason is a capital crime. To say that someone is a traitor is to say that they deserve, in justice, to die.

Espionage is a capital crime as well. Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were put to death for espionage. The fact that we haven't done it since is to our discredit, in my opinion.

Do I think Reality Winner (yes, I can't believe it's her real name either) deserves to be executed? No. Aldrich Ames certainly does. And I'd make a case for Robert Hansen as well. Not all traitors have been put to death, either. Circumstances do vary.

Grim said...

True. I just mean that traitors always deserve to die, whereas people guilty of espionage don't. We may not choose to kill a traitor, but it's what they merit. Thus, it's a category I think we should be careful to use only for those who are actively aiding real enemies of the warlike sort.

james said...

I don't know if she has ruined her life.

She could try the same sort of thing Manning did--distract. Instead of finding Manning to blame, we find unManning.

She could announce that she identifies as a dolphin, and will undergo species-reassignment soon--and everybody loves dolphins.

And if she makes her own Reality...

Texan99 said...

I agree, it remains to be seen whether she has damaged her life in any way. If she doesn't have to do any hard time, it may be that she'll simply dine out on this episode for the rest of her life.

Tom said...

Or get a cushy tenured position at Harvard.

jaed said...

The million-dollar book advance, the speaking tour, then the part-time lectureship at Harvard and the well-paid opinion columns, I think.

Or maybe I'm too cynical. They did actually arrest her, after all.

at least electronic voting machines that you can't remotely control
It is my understanding that our current voting machines cannot be remotely controlled. You'd need physical access. Conceivably one might get control of the software and modify it somehow before it is loaded onto all the machines. That is a potential vulnerability.

I'd be more comfortable with machines that print out a computer- and human-readable sheet of paper, that the voter can audit and then deposit in a secure box. For the first N times any given software version is used, the paper ballots should be counted, and any discrepancy with the machine total resolved. Once the software is sufficiently debugged and stable, one could forego the paper counting unless the result is questioned.