To maintain the security of our homeland, our federal government depends on the services of contractors who work with our intelligence agencies. It is imperative that these contractors employ individuals of high character and integrity for their mission is so important to the security of our nation. Sadly, one such contractor in Augusta, Georgia, Pluribus International Corporation, made a terrible mistake when it hired an unstable 25-year old woman who legally changed her name to Reality Leigh Winner.
Ms. Winner was arrested last weekend for illegally removing a top secret report from a secure government facility and sending it to an Internet based news outlet, The Intercept, which published the material. The National Security Agency document detailed attempts by Russian hackers to compromise U.S. voting software in states across the nation prior to the November 8, 2016 presidential election.
For these alleged activities, Winner was officially charged with leaking classified U.S. documents. If convicted, Winner, who pleaded not guilty, faces a potential sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
After her arrest, some disturbing information has been uncovered about Ms. Winner. On her voluminous social media posts, Ms. Winner made it very clear that she is a hardcore liberal and hates Donald Trump. In fact, she referred to our President as a “c..nt,” a “piece of sh..,” and a “soulless ginger orangutan” not exactly the best way to refer to her boss. In contrast, she liked the Facebook pages of liberal icons such as Bill Maher and Michael Moore and was a strong supporter of the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Prosecutors also announced that they retrieved a journal from Winner’s home and discovered some very unsettling contents. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari, Winner declared her intention to “burn the White House Down…find somewhere in Kurdistan to live.” To make matters even worse, she pledged allegiance to the terrorist group, the Taliban and expressed support for Osama Bin Laden.
In a hearing yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps was also alerted that Winner may have illegally accessed top secret information before her tenure with Pluribus. While she was in the U.S. Air Force, Winner inserted a portable hard drive into a top secret computer. Regrettably, authorities have not been able to locate the hard drive or the information that was downloaded.
The case against Winner became even stronger when prosecutors outlined to the judge what Winner said in recorded phone calls from prison. She admitted to her mother that she “screwed up” and coached her to tell the media that she was “scared” and “play up that angle.”
She told her sister that she would receive favorable treatment at a bond hearing because she would “play that card: being pretty, white and cute, braid my hair and cry.” Her strategy was quite ironic since Winner had previously claimed on Facebook that “being white is terrorism.”
Fortunately, Winner’s outrageous plans did not work out in her favor. Prosecutors successfully argued that Winner was a flight risk if she was released. Judge Epps denied her bond and ordered Winner to remain behind bars until her trial. Epps said that her notebook comments “whether that’s a jest or not, it still concerns me.”
These new developments show that Winner was likely guilty of espionage and possibly other crimes. There is no doubt that she illegally shared classified information with a news site. She holds views that are clearly anti-American and she definitely hates the Commander-in-Chief. A person with such a mindset should never have been hired by any contractor working with the National Security Agency and never been anywhere near top secret information.
This entire episode raises plenty of questions about the hiring process for contractors that have access to classified and top secret information. Only patriotic individuals of highest character and integrity should be hired for these positions, not a youngster who shared a variety of violent and radical views online.
This sad case illustrates why the nation is dealing with so many intelligence leaks to the media. Our government has been compromised by the current arrangement with private contractors. It is obvious that the background checks need to be seriously upgraded. In the future, no one like Reality Winner should ever be given such close access to our nation’s most sensitive information.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America’s Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]