ACTION ALERT: Stand By Imprisoned Whistleblower Reality Winter
March 14, 2018
RootsAction & Billie Winner-Davis / Courage to Resist & Kevin Gosztola / Shadowproof Press
Reality Leigh Winner, an USAF vet, a whistleblower, and a former employee of an NSA contractor, has been in jail for nine months without trial. The government's treatment of Ms. Winner has been shameful, vindictive and indefensible. Winner was arrested and charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly releasing a top-secret document to a US media outlet. The document exposed Russian online intrusions prior to the 2016 presidential election. Held without bail, Winner now spends 12 hours a day in shackles.
ACTION ALERT: Stand By Reality Winter
Military veteran and imprisoned NSA whistleblower Reality Winter
(March 13, 2018) -- Ever since RootsAction.org began seven years ago, we have supported -- with petitions, sharing of key information, news conferences and financial assistance -- brave whistleblowers who've faced government repression.
Early on, in 2011, we started advocating for the release of Chelsea Manning, and since then RootsAction has provided a range of support for such whistleblowers as Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden, and Jeffrey Sterling. A key principle is that democracy cannot really exist without the informed consent of the governed.
Now, we're proud to share with you the following letter. It was written to RootsAction members by Billie J. Winner-Davis, the mother of Reality Leigh Winner, a former employee of an NSA contractor who has already been in jail for nine months without trial. The government's treatment of Reality Winner is shameful, vindictive and indefensible.
While RootsAction opposes the current widespread efforts to inflame tensions and conflicts between the world's two nuclear superpowers, we are also committed to civil liberties and the public's right to know. We hope that you will consider writing to Reality Winner and making a donation to her family to help sustain them during their ongoing ordeal.
The RootsAction.org Team
To All Who Will Listen
On June 3, 2017 my daughter Reality Leigh Winner was arrested and jailed and later charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly releasing a top-secret document to a media outlet, The Intercept. The document analyzed information about Russian online intrusions prior to the 2016 presidential election. Reality had been employed by a contract agency and worked at the NSA in Augusta, Georgia following her honorable discharge from the US Air Force in December of 2016.
Reality has pleaded not guilty to this one charge, and her defense team is working furiously to defend against the Espionage charge, but the Court in Georgia continues to rule against Reality at every turn. Reality has been denied pretrial bail and awaits trial in a small county jail in Lincolnton, Georgia.
The impact this has had on Reality and our entire family is devastating. Because of her special diet, Reality's nutritional and medical needs are not met in jail.
She has been spontaneously denied mail, books, and visits. In order to assist in her defense, she must be transported to the Federal Courthouse in Augusta, Georgia and spends up to 12 hours in full shackles and is strip-searched multiple times during the day.
I took an early retirement from my career with Child Protective Services in Texas and relocated to Augusta in hopes that my living there would satisfy the Court and assure Reality bail.
Being 1,700 miles away from home and incurring the costs of two households has been a financial strain, but it at least gives me the opportunity to visit with my daughter on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and to advocate for her. My husband and oldest daughter also travel to and from Georgia for significant court hearings, meetings, and visits with Reality.
Please write to Reality at:
Reality L. Winner Inmate # 3342
Lincoln County Jail
PO Box 970
Lincolnton, GA 30817
A GoFundMe account is also set up to assist the family with expenses and to enable us to advocate for Reality. To help, please click here.
We are fortunate to have many supportive people and organizations that have come forward to stand by Reality and be a support to us. Reality receives letters and postcards from all over the world with encouraging messages.
The Courage to Resist organization has set up a Friends of Reality Winner Campaign, which does fundraising for her legal defense and public awareness events. There are several Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, which help increase awareness and build support.
To learn more about how to help and support Reality and our family, please visit the following sites, pages, and Twitter accounts:
*Friends of Reality Leigh Winner FB Group
*Friends of Reality FB Page
Reality is an extraordinary woman and she remains very strong, despite the situation she is in. I remain forever grateful to all who have written her and continue to support her. There are some very good people out there and this has been one of the blessings to come out of this struggle.
As the days pass, our hopes for a quick resolution have disappeared, and I am now realizing that we have a very long and hard battle ahead of us. Reality needs support long term and I am hoping that she will have this.
Billie J. Winner-Davis
In Reality Winner's Case,
Defense Seizes Upon FBI Testimony to
Bolster Motion to Suppress Statements
Kevin Gosztola / Shadowproof Press
(February 27, 2018) -- FBI agents who questioned Reality Winner while they were executing search warrants never told her she was "free to leave," a fact that could determine whether statements she made are suppressed.
Winner is an NSA contractor accused of mailing a classified document on alleged Russian hacking of voter registration systems to The Intercept. She was charged with violating the Espionage Act and is currently in detention awaiting trial.
Back in August, Winner's attorneys filed a motion to suppress statements made to FBI agents hours before she was arrested because Winner was never read her Miranda rights,
Judge Brian Epps convened a five-hour hearing at the Federal Justice Center in Augusta, Georgia, where the defense and government cross-examined two FBI agents who were present on June 3 during the raid. He gave the defense and government quite a bit of latitude to ask the agents whatever questions they wanted.
Special Agent Justin Garrick, who authored an affidavit for Winner's search warrant application and the criminal complaint, testified that he never told her she was free to leave. He also never dissuaded her from asking FBI agents permission when she wanted to move about her home while they were present.
There was an email the night before search warrants were executed that indicated the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) of the Justice Department approved of agents arresting Winner if she happened to plea or admit to an unauthorized disclosure. Another email stated agents would effect the arrest and search of her home.
Matthew Chester, one of Winner's defense attorneys, argued the agents made a "tactical decision" not to arrest her so she would talk with them.
Epps asked Garrick if he ever received any instructions on when to Mirandize someone in the context of their home. In the context of executing a search warrant, Garrick never considered the need to inform Winner that she was "free to leave." He told the judge he never contemplated Mirandizing her.
The prosecutor, Jennifer Solari, repeatedly emphasized the friendliness or politeness of the FBI agents, as well as the "voluntary" aspects of the encounter, to argue Winner's rights were not violated.
Solari consistently reminded the court that a battering ram was not used, guns were never brandished, agents did not use abusive language, Winner was never told to get down on the ground, and Garrick and another agent, Wally Taylor, never were in her face demanding she answer specific questions.
It was almost as if the government wanted the judge to overlook the agents' conduct because there were worse ways they could have violated her rights that did not occur.
The defense emphasized the fact that Winner's movements were controlled at all times, and she was the FBI's only suspect, even though the document at issue was printed six times. They also referred to the position of the government -- that Winner is a "flight risk," a potential target of foreign adversaries, and a possible danger to the community, who should remain in jail until trial.
A number of times, Chester raised the following issue: If Reality Winner is a danger to the community and potential target of foreign adversaries, which was true before the searches on June 3, why would FBI agents ever have allowed her to leave?
In fact, Garrick indicated that a surveillance team was stationed and ready to follow her if she left her home.
The government firmly maintains any "reasonable person" would have felt free to terminate the encounter, but Winner was never informed of her custodial status. Garrick testified that she was never told she was not in custody.
During closing argument, the government went through a laundry list of factors the defense claimed as evidence her rights were violated and said very few of these factors were relevant to the issue. Yet, Solari stated it certainly would have been helpful if agents had informed her she was "free to leave."
When the proceedings concluded, Epps called the proceedings a "shining example of how the adversarial process is supposed to work."
Defense attorneys will submit another brief with further arguments based on the day's proceedings. The government will respond. That means it will be about a month before the judge rules on the motion to suppress statements.
If the defense manages to win, it could be pivotal. She made several incriminating statements, including what appeared to be a confession. The defense would certainly benefit if the government was unable to use what she said because FBI agents failed to respect her rights.
Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.