Top Leaks of 2017 Part 1 – Reality and Russia

Intelligence

It’s end-of-the-year retrospective time at Daily Intel. Looking back at the 140 entries I’ve written since coming on-board in June, there are definitely some themes that keep popping up: North Korea, Russia, the NDAA… and leaks. It’s time we followed-up on what happened with some of the leaks and leakers we covered this year.

Reality Winner, the most ironically named spy in history

Reality Leigh Winner is the leaker whose name is the gif that keeps on giving. The former Air Force linguist who became an intelligence community contractor was the subject of my very first Daily Intel column. Winner became a loser when she printed a Top Secret document regarding previously undisclosed Russian spear-phishing attempts prior to the 2016 General Election. She then gave that document to The Intercept, Edward Snowden’s favorite publication.

In September, the Justice Department revealed that Winner blithely told investigators she smuggled the documents out of her secure facility “folded in half in my pantyhose.” Thus the woman who told her sister that America is “literally the worst thing to happen on the planet,” because, she said, “We invented capitalism the downfall of the environment,” became kindred spirits with Fawn Hall. For those not old enough to remember, Fawn Hall was not just the poster-child for 1980s “big hair,” she invented the pantyhose trick while smuggling documents for besieged Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North in the run-up to the Iran-Contra Scandal.

While Hall received immunity in exchange for testimony against North, Winner remains in Federal custody awaiting trial. Her lawyers are working diligently to make the government look like the bad guy for prosecuting the self-proclaimed “pretty, white, and cute” Winner under the Espionage Act.

Paul Manafort swept-up in FISA Warrant

The president had been riding high (by Trump administration standards) during the week of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, so naturally, a leak was in order. Right in the middle of the President’s visit to the UN, leakers revealed that his one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant.

This was significant for two reasons: first, to secure a FISA warrant against an American citizen, the government must show that it has probable cause that the citizen in question committed a crime. Second, it confirmed (for some) the president’s assertion that his predecessor had wiretapped Trump Tower.

If special counsel Robert Mueller, investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign an the Russian government, expected Manafort to roll-over the president, he must be disappointed at this point. Despite the FISA wiretaps, to date the only thing Mueller has come up with is violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, for which he charged Manafort in September. Mueller’s team managed to secure a draconian home-arrest remand for Manafort. Prosecutors accepted a new deal wherein Manafort pledged $11 million in property as bail, but rescinded their agreement when it was revealed that Manafort had been working on an op-ed with “a longtime Russian colleague” with alleged “ties to Russian intelligence.”

Manafort has not, as far as we know, spilled the beans regarding Trump and Russia and continues to maintain his innocence. The judge has proposed May 7 as the start date for his trial. There has been no word on who leaked the FISA information to the press.

Tom McCuin is a strategic communication consultant and retired Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Public Affairs officer whose career includes serving with the Malaysian Battle Group in Bosnia, two tours in Afghanistan, and three years in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in the Pentagon. When he’s not devouring political news, he enjoys sailboat racing and umpiring Little League games (except the ones his son plays in) in Alexandria, Va. Follow him on Twitter at @tommccuin

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