By Robert Reich
The arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old federal contractor from Atlanta, Georgia, for leaking a National Security Agency report describing in far more detail than previously known Russian efforts to intrude in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, comes in the midst of a deluge of Trump tweets and leaks.
Among the most sensitive leaks about national security since the start of the Trump administration was Trump’s own Oval Office conversation with top Russian officials last month, in which he revealed allied intelligence information apparently coming from Israel. At that same meeting, Trump discussed his firing of former FBI Director James Comey the previous day, thereby relieving “great pressure” on him, he said. (Comey will be testifying before Congress Thursday).
How do we even know about these discussions between Trump and Russian officials? They were leaked! So we had a leak about a leak, coupled with a leak about a potential coverup by the president of his attempt to obstruct justice.
The essential message of the Justice Department’s decision to go after Reality Winner is that those who leak will be targeted for prosecution if the information they give journalists is about Russia helping Trump win the election.
But let’s be clear. This particular leak of an NSA report is not the central problem.
The problem is Russia has directly and brazenly interfered in our democratic system. Yet we don’t know exactly how – and we don’t have a means of stopping Russia from doing it again.
The other part of the problem is that instead of resolutely focusing on this brazen attack on American democracy, we have president who’s been actively trying to obstruct public knowledge of what happened.