If the Trump Regime's plan to go after leakers was designed to take the spotlight off Russian interference with our election systems, the first iteration has failed miserably as the Justice Department has all but confirmed now that Moscow used phishing attacks to infiltrate voter registration systems and to compromise election officials in multiple states ahead of last year's elections.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday charged a federal contractor with sending classified material to a news organization that sources identified to Reuters as The Intercept, marking one of the first concrete efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on leaks to the media.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged with removing classified material from a government facility located in Georgia. She was arrested on June 3, the Justice Department said.
The charges were announced less than an hour after The Intercept published a top-secret document from the U.S. National Security Agency that described Russian efforts to launch cyber attacks on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send "spear-phishing" emails, or targeted emails that try to trick a recipient into clicking on a malicious link to steal data, to more than 100 local election officials days before the presidential election last November.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the case beyond its filing. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the charges do not name the publication, a U.S. official with knowledge of the case said Winner was charged with leaking the NSA report to The Intercept. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against Winner were directly tied to it.
The Intercept's reporting reveals new details behind the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence services were seeking to infiltrate state voter registration systems as part of a broader effort to interfere in the election, discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then Republican candidate Donald Trump win the election.
The new material does not, however, suggest that actual votes were manipulated.
Multiple observations here: first, the NSA analysis document on the Russians using phishing to get into voter registration systems is authentic, which means yes, the Russians did try to undermine confidence in our election infrastructure and got caught. The notion that the Russians weren't behind this is now factually wrong and this confirms what we've known for months now. We have a serious international problem on our hands. The Russians messed with our elections, period. How does fiddling with voter registration systems help Trump and the GOP? Why that one's simple, guys. Purging the rolls of Democrats. Particularly in say, zip codes where there's a heavy black and/or Latino presence in swing states like NC or Florida. Or say...Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
Second, the Trump regime must have known about this NSA report, and have made multiple attempts to lift sanctions on Russia anyway, despite the fact they knew the Russians tampered with at least one major voter registration logistics company and the election officials that used that company, which according to the story is VR Systems based in Florida...see point one above. There was no bigger electoral prize up for grabs in 2016 than the Sunshine State, with NC close behind. If Clinton has taken both of them, she'd be President right now.
Third, in their zeal to go after the leaker, a 25-year-old woman, all the Trump regime has done is authenticate the story. They've also sent a message that Trump and Sessions are far more worried about protecting Russia here than our election systems, and the people who are coming forward with the truth. They also need a colossal distraction from this week's Senate Russia hearings.
Fourth, The Intercept appears to have immediately burned their NSA source in Ms. Winner here through a combination of wanting to get this story out first, and being sloppy as hell on protecting its source from Trump and Sessions. Considering all they went though to keep Ed Snowden safe, they sure screwed the pooch on protecting Reality Winner. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are very upset with The Intercept that they so "carelessly" exposed a source.
Fifth, her name is Reality Leigh Winner. Somebody thought that was a good name. I have no words. You'd get thrown out of your editor's office if you came to them with an NSA leaker character in your fiction novel named that, and for good reason. Of course, she's a flesh-and-blood person whose life is about to be utterly destroyed by Trump for political cover, so it's actually not as amusing as you think.
Finally, here's an off-the-wall thing here. We basically knew all this stuff beforehand. We knew that local/state election officials had been compromised, we knew at least one major voter registration logistics company had been phished, and we knew that the Russian goal was to undermine confidence in our election systems.
The question becomes why The Intercept would do this now, and burn a source so casually like this. If you were the Trump regime, and you wanted to protect Russia and parade a leaker around in chains and an orange jumpsuit in order to terrify the press and other potential leakers, you would need, well, an obvious case of somebody leaking a Russia document that doesn't really say too much. Yeah, I know, the Feds caught her pretty much right after she mailed the Intercept with the document and would have busted her anyway, but the Intercept didn't have to go to the NSA over this either. Maybe it saved the Feds a little leg work, maybe it didn't.
But you would be forgiven if one might think that Team Double G were told to burn their source on purpose, days before NSA chief Mike Rogers and FBI Director James Comey are to testify under oath to the Senate.