America’s intelligence agencies are having terrible problems keeping secrets these days, none more than my former employer, NSA: or, as I’ve termed it, the National INsecurity Agency. Since the recent rash of leaks and thefts of classified information has real implications for our national security, this issue needs public attention. If you can’t keep secrets, there’s hardly any point to having spy services – much less spending some $50 billion annually on a behemoth Intelligence Community that leaks like a sieve.
Take the recent case of the improbably named Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who was arrested in June for stealing an above-top-secret report and passing it to The Intercept, which published its revelations. A former Air Force linguist assigned to NSA Georgia, located in Augusta, the 25-year-old Winner took it upon herself to sneak highly classified intelligence out of her office – hidden in her pantyhose – because she felt the public had a right to know its contents.
According to Winner, she stole a Top Secret Codeword signals intelligence assessment on Russian hacking of our 2016 election because she felt it needed to be known: “Why can’t this be public?” she asked. Of course, she knew the answer: because it’s highly classified and therefore should be seen only by properly cleared people with a need to know, in the jargon of the espionage business.
However, Winner, who was miffed at her co-workers for watching FoxNews in the office, decided that the damage to NSA caused by her leak would be limited: “I just figured that whatever we were using had already been compromised, and that this report was just going to be like a one drop in the bucket,” she stated, adding that she never bothered to check if these SIGINT sources and methods had already been compromised. Winner has been denied bail and is awaiting trial for violations of the Espionage Act.
We’ve seen this personalized take on the nation’s secrecy laws before, namely with Edward Snowden, another NSA contractor who, in the spring of 2013, just short of his 30th birthday, made off with 1.5 million classified documents and defected to Moscow, where he remains. Snowden, too, felt that laws on protecting America’s secrets didn’t apply to him, so he broke more of them than anyone in the nation’s history.
Read the rest at The Observer …