• Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak

    June 6, 2017

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Democracy, NSA

    An NSA document purporting to show Russian military hacker attempts to access a Florida company which makes voter registration software is sent anonymously to The Intercept. A low-level NSA contractor, Reality Winner, above, is arrested almost immediately. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

    Who Benefits?

    Start with the question of who benefits — cui bono— same as detectives do when assessing a crime.

    — Trump looks bad as another trickle of information comes out connecting something Russian to something 2016 election. Intelligence community (IC) looks like they are onto something, a day or so before ousted FBI Director James Comey testifies before Congress on related matters.

    — The Intercept looks like it contributed to burning a source. Which potential leaker is going to them in the future? If potential leakers are made to think twice, another win for the IC.

    — The FBI made an arrest right away, nearly simultaneous to the publication, with the formal charges coming barely an hour after The Intercept published. The bust is sure thing according to the very publicly released information. No Ed Snowden hiding out in Russia this time. IC looks good here.

    — More evidence is now in the public domain that the Russians are after our election process. Seems as if the IC has been right all along.

    What Happened is… Curious and Curiouser…

    Now let’s look at what we know so far about how this happened.

    A 25-year-old improbably-named Reality Winner leaves behind a trail long and wide on social media of anti-Trump stuff, including proclaiming herself a member of The Resistance. Never mind, she takes her Top Secret clearance with her out of the Air Force (she had been stationed with the military’s 94th Intelligence Squadron out of Fort Meade, Maryland, co-located with the NSA’s headquarters) and scores a job with an NSA contractor. Despite the lessons of too-much-access the Snowden episode should have taught the NSA, Winner apparently enjoys all sorts of classified documents — her Air Force expertise was in Afghan matters, so it is unclear why she would have access to info on Russia hacking of U.S. domestic companies.

    Within only about 90 days of starting her new job, she prints out the one (and only one apparently, why not more?) document in question and mails it to The Intercept. She also uses her work computer inside an NSA facility to write to the Intercept twice about this same time.

    Winner has a clearance. She was trained as a Dari, Pashto, and Farsi linguist by the Air Force. She knows how classified stuff works. She has been told repeatedly, as all persons with a clearance are, that her computer, email, printing, and phone are monitored. She mailed the document from Augusta, Georgia, the city where she lives and where the NSA facility is located. She practiced no tradecraft, did nothing to hide her actions and many things to call attention to them. It is very, very unclear why she took the actions she did under those circumstances.

    The Document

    The Intercept meanwhile drops by their friendly neighborhood NSA contact and shows them the document. NSA very publicly confirms the veracity of the document (unusual in itself, officially the Snowden and Manning documents remain unconfirmed) and then makes sure the open-court document filed is not sealed and includes the information on how the spooks know the leaked doc was printed inside the NSA facility. Winner went on to make a full confession to the FBI. The upshot? This document is not a plant. The NSA wants you to very much know it is real. The Russians certainly are messing with our election.

    But funny thing. While the leaked NSA document seems to be a big deal, at least to the general public, it sort of isn’t. It shows one piece of analysis suggesting but not confirming the GRU, Russian military intelligence, tried to steal some credentials and gain access to a private company. No U.S. sources and methods, or raw technical intel, are revealed, the crown jewel stuff. There is no evidence the hack accomplished anything at all, never mind anything nefarious. The hack took place months ago and ran its course, meaning the Russian operation was already dead. The Russians were running a run-of-the-mill spearfishing attack, potentially effective, but nothing especially sophisticated. You get similar stuff all the time trying to harvest your credit card information. The leaked document looks like a big deal but isn’t.

    Another issue. The Intercept has a lot of very smart people working for it, people with real-world intelligence and tradecraft experience. People who know about microdot encoding on printed documents, one of the tells here, and people who know they don’t show their whole hand when asking the NSA for a comment. The Intercept journalist volunteered to an NSA contracting company that the envelope received was postmarked to Augusta, where Winner lived and worked. Like Reality Winner and her own security training, it is very, very unclear why the Intercept took the actions it did under those circumstances.

    So For Now…

    So, look, what we know about this story may represent .01% of the whole picture, and that tiny sliver of visible information is only what the government has chosen to reveal. And sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. Sometimes smart people make dumb mistakes.

    But that’s not the way you place your bets, especially when dealing with the IC who are good at these kinds of games. At this very early stage I’m going to say there are too many coincidences and too many mistakes to simple shrug it all off. Too many of the benefits in this have accrued on the side of the IC than is typical when a real whistleblower shares classified documents with a journalist.

    If it frightens you that I invoke the question of the Deep State using journalists to smear the President, just forget I said anything. But if we’re willing to believe the Russians somehow successfully manipulated our entire society to elect their favored candidate, then we can at least ask a few questions.

    Otherwise, if anyone hears Winner’s lawyer use the word “patsy,” let me know, OK?

    BONUS: Matt Cole, one of The Intercept journalists credited to this story, was also involved in the outing of source CIA officer John Kiriakou in connection with CIA torture claims. Small world!

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      IF this was all a diabolical plan by DEEP STATE to get Trumpie on trumped up Russkie election collusion charges, where is the friggin peepee tape? If it exists, the NSA has got a copy by now.

      Just cant figure why DS is after the guy. Trumpie seems like a real nice guy. Hell, he just wished Comey good luck on his testimony.

      06/6/17 9:38 PM | Comment Link

    • So Far Right said...


      I hate online psychoanalysis, but she doesn’t look like a happy person. She’s not smiling and looks depressed in most of the pics I’ve seen of her.

      06/6/17 11:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak – Lion Party said...


      […] Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak (wemeantwell.com) […]

      06/7/17 3:41 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Clapper does not lie…………….oh wait, will M.Cole be working again with Tapper $oon?

      06/7/17 6:58 AM | Comment Link

    • Second thoughts on the Russian hack leaks | Phil Ebersole's Blog said...


      […] Hey, Intercept, Something Is Very Wrong With Reality Winner and the NSA Leak by Peter Van Buren for Hooper’s War. […]

      06/7/17 8:47 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Embassy cat owner group offers 10k reward! Will Hillary’s Hollywood pals like “Risk”?

      06/7/17 9:04 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      The LGBTQ community offers up another from their ranks in a strange sideshow for sleepy proles? Too early to tell what to make of this creep show.

      06/7/17 10:17 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      FISA will save u.s. (sure)

      06/7/17 10:51 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Will the U.S. and Obama’s guy Jim Messina (working for May across the pond) fx a win for Theresa today?

      06/7/17 10:53 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...


      When I first saw her name….. I thought it was the last Kentucky Derby Winner.

      And…. Yep…… There is so much wrong with this….. Starting with…. How, EXACTLY, did a 25 year old get access to “eyes only ” intel??????

      And…. Let’s follow that one with…… Why did she take only one document????….. Treason is Treason, after all…..

      Next question….. Is…… WTF ???????


      06/7/17 11:45 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      She had a photo signed with note from Anderson Cooper wishing her a ty for her service ! USA #1 Vanderbilt$ love the poor.

      06/7/17 11:50 AM | Comment Link

    • AddictionMyth said...


      Yes it’s a nothing-burger. Which is why The Intercept published it – they are Putin’s tool in the US and their job is to discredit anti-Kremlin propaganda (in this case by hyping it and then letting it deflate on its own). As for Winner, she’s just a loser who got angry after Greenwald published his May 5 piece saying Trump is no worse than Obama. This was ‘proof’ otherwise. Or so she thought. She’s an idiot.

      06/7/17 12:17 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Has it been a long time since P.V.B. has been at Common Dreams website? Would the MSM press go after Assange, Snowden etc. etc. down the serfs, to stop the Truth? Have a nice day. If you are out of the country (#1, repeat) and need to talk, call me collect @ 702-555-1212 (sorry who ever). RUSSIA! fisa

      06/7/17 12:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      DEMonstrates the escalating generic incompetence of IC, ‘whistleblower’ thru “press” to ‘investigators’! Hell, I took more precautions revealing run-of-the-mil “unclassified” US’ corruption; much less ‘classified’ Company CRIMINALITY !

      06/7/17 12:31 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Whatz ur source Bruce! Tweet me. Like me on faceboo. Have a nice day all.

      06/7/17 1:37 PM | Comment Link

    • Iris Pangburn said...


      Yes, this whole story is truly weird. How could “Reality” have been so stupid, have such access, etc.,& how could the Intercept be so dumb? I’ve been wondering about the 4 reporters involved — did one of them set up the Intercept to be discredited?

      06/7/17 1:58 PM | Comment Link

    • TONYA PARNELL said...


      She is listed as part Arab, member of the Black Lives Matter and a Bernie supporter. How the hell did they hire her. Her body looks like a man. The State Dept. and the NSA needs to have lie detector tests to finish draining the swamp or this stuff is going to be on going for a long time.

      06/7/17 2:02 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      OK, I’ll be crude and bold. Maybe she just wants to be in an all female prison for a few years. Lots of babes working out with iron. What’s not to like?
      If you think me homophobic be prepared to be disabused of such an attack. Reality Winner matters as much as any of us except for one thing. If you sign a contract and swear an oath for a paycheck don’t turn on your employer and expect sympathy. Quit and then do your thing as an ex employee. Oaths matter. Don’t take them unless you are going to follow the rules. Same with Constand the accuser of Cosby. Why didn’t she return the “undisclosed” settlement before coming back years later with her accusation? She took Cosby’s money and now wants revenge. Seems a little hypocritical. He hit on a lesbian perhaps thinking he might be her cure? How fucking stupid is that? For that alone he needs a long time out in a country club incarceration setting.

      06/7/17 2:46 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...


      Pll be

      06/7/17 3:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Deep State obviously selected her given her name. Reality Winner takes down reality show loser. You’re fired. The creator creates the seeds of his own destruction.

      Besides, the country has already turned against Trumpie.

      Country: Could you see your way out the door? The country is too good to let you destroy it.

      06/7/17 4:41 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Unless there are photos Trumpie giving Putin a blowjob, this is all an exercise in mass masturbation. I want the greedy fucker removed from office for screwing people who need the money:

      The Eric Trump Foundation paid President Trump’s businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2007 to 2015 for expenses from charity golf tournaments intended to benefit Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, at the direction of Mr. Trump, according to a report published Tuesday in Forbes.

      Eric Trump, Mr. Trump’s second-oldest son, told Forbes all the money from the annual golf tournaments at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York benefited children with cancer, and he did not pay to use his family’s golf course.

      “We get to use our assets 100 percent free of charge,” he told Forbes’ Dan Alexander.

      But IRS tax forms Forbes obtained show use of the course wasn’t free after all. The for-profit Trump Organization received payments from the not-for-profit Eric Trump Foundation for use of the golf course, part of the $1.2 million that has no documented receipts beyond the Trump Organization, according to Forbes.

      More than $500,000 in donations raised from the tournaments was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, according to Forbes. Four such groups held their own charity tournaments at Trump golf courses at later dates. The nonprofit Donald J. Trump Foundation also donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation to cover tournament costs, money that was then redirected to Trump businesses, Forbes claims.

      According to Forbes, it was now-President Trump himself who demanded that the Eric Trump Foundation be charged for the use of the golf course.

      Somebody get that peepee tape of this perverted fuck.

      06/7/17 5:28 PM | Comment Link

    • PBC News & Comment: Comey Preview: Sparks Will Fly – Peter B. Collins said...


      […] –widespread criticism of The Intercept for burning Reality Winner from NY Times, Kevin Gosztola, and Peter Van Buren […]

      06/7/17 7:12 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Tonya- Her mother says she is a good Christian. Not sure if such status will help during sentencing but hey, it’s worth a try.

      06/7/17 8:26 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      PVB: it does indeed smack of The Intercept wanting to get in bed with the IC for whatever reason.

      06/7/17 8:49 PM | Comment Link

    • MissX said...


      Soon as I saw that name, Reality Winner, I felt convinced Hillary and Co. are behind this.

      After all, HRC is the “reality winner” of the 2016 election, you know…

      06/7/17 9:59 PM | Comment Link

    • some guy said...


      How about the chance the that the reason she was put at that position was because of her unstable profile gleaned from her social media?

      The Deep State could have targeted people they believed would leak anti-Trump documents and hired them to jobs they clearly shouldn’t have.

      Then dumb dumb decided that this document is what would finally sink Drumpf for good.

      06/7/17 10:26 PM | Comment Link

    • Coises said...


      “It is very, very unclear why she took the actions she did under those circumstances.”

      What about the simple and obvious explanation? Perhaps she was simply following orders.

      Also, we should consider that the intelligence agencies might not be working against the President. If all this leads nowhere, and the President and intelligence agencies already know that… it serves as a long distraction that consumes a lot of energy and in the end just discredits his opposition.

      06/8/17 2:11 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Coises: Yes indeed, a long distraction- maybe way beyond Trump’s term or terms. Bread and hearings for the American coliseum spectators with beer and dogs in their mitts.

      06/8/17 3:31 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Some guy: but she still gets the prize of a stint in an all female prison with workout room and showers- free meals and changed sheets for her cot. It might be a fantasy come true.

      06/8/17 3:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Snake Arbusto said...


      My only contribution to the discussion is to point out the similarities between Ms. Winner and Lee Harvey Oswald: Marine/Air Force linguist, spook connections, security clearance, possible patsy, “sheep-dipping” (Oswald’s pro-Cuba posturing, Winner’s pro-Iran), etc.

      06/13/17 7:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Zachary Smith said...


      This kind of wonderful article is why I bookmarked this site. We seem to have had a young female child working for the NSA at the same time the White House has an old male child in residence.

      06/14/17 2:20 AM | Comment Link

    Leave A Comment

    Mail (will not be published) (required)