This may well be the first leak arrest in the new Trump administration. The Washington Post has the details:
A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news organization.
Reality Leigh Winner was accused of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information — the first criminal charge filed in a leak investigation during the Trump administration.
Winner was arrested Saturday and the case was revealed Monday, shortly after the website the Intercept posted a redacted version of a U.S. intelligence document describing Russian government efforts to use hacking techniques against employees of a company that provides technical support to states’ voting agencies.
As The Federalist’s Sean Davis points out, it looks like the Intercept may have inadvertently burned its source by providing the documents to the government for confirmation:
According to the FBI affidavit, the news outlet outed its source when it provided the top secret doc to the gov’t. for confirmation. pic.twitter.com/PowFcQ6xwc— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) June 5, 2017
If the allegations are true (and the FBI claims that she confessed removing the classified information and sending it to the Intercept), then Ms. Winner should receive an extended prison sentence. She’s violated the law and betrayed her country. It’s not up to individual government employees or contractors to decide on their own which classification laws they’ll obey, and they’re not relieved of their legal (or moral) duties simply because they may despise Donald Trump or subjectively believe that Russian election interference should be more publicly and thoroughly exposed.
Responsible citizens should be alarmed both by Russian interference and by the endless parade of intelligence leaks. And lest anyone think that the Trump administration stands out for cracking down, I’d refer you to these words from James Risen of the New York Times:
If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.
Criticism of Mr. Obama’s stance on press freedom, government transparency and secrecy is hotly disputed by the White House, but many journalism groups say the record is clear. Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.
Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.
The Obama administration was right to prosecute leakers, but it was wrong to spy on journalists. The boundary is clear: the government should police its own while keeping its hands off the press. For all of its hostility and bluster against the media, the Trump administration so far seems to be walking on the right side of that line.