Reality Winner Is A Loser, And So Is U.S. Secrecy investors.com
Secrets: That 25-year-old Reality Winner — yes, that's her real name — was caught giving out top-secret information is no great surprise. After all, she is a far-left anti-Trump activist who called him an "orange fascist" and a "piece of s**t," and once tweeted to rapper Kanye West to suggest he make a T-shirt saying "Being white is terrorism." (For the record, Winner is herself white.)
She used the hashtags "Resist" and "NeverMyPresident" on her Facebook page and, as the Daily Caller notes, "appears to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders and other progressive icons, such as Bill Maher and Michael Moore."
No, these are not crimes. But taken together, they might indicate at least some possible questions about her trustworthiness for a post with top-secret access — especially working under a president she clearly despises and "resists." Yet, as an employee for National Security Agency contractor Pluribus International Corp. in Georgia, Winner, a former Air Force linguist, had top-secret clearance.
Indeed, Winner worked just three months for her employer before being charged with stealing classified documents on May 9, and then sending them to online publication The Intercept, which published an article on Monday that appeared to contain Winner's information. The documents Winner stole purportedly show that Russian agents tried to hack local U.S. voting systems before the election, not exactly a startling revelation.
What's troubling about this is it isn't the first time this has happened. The government hands out thousands and thousands of security clearances to individuals in the private sector, based on what can only be called a shoddy background check.
In March of this year, the magazine Washington Technology ran a piece with the headline "Security clearance backlog puts contractors, DOD at risk." It contained a stunning statistic: From February 2016 to September 2016, as the security-lax Obama administration was winding down, the security investigations backlog soared 22% from 464,000 to 569,000. That's right: More than a half-million people are now in line for security clearances, many of them to get top-secret clearances.
And the number of top-secret jobs appears to be growing. A quick check Tuesday of the Indeed job website listed some 14,136 openings in its "Top Secret Clearance Jobs" category. And that's just one website!
Is it even possible to give that many people a decent background check?
And given the large and growing number of people required to get security clearances, should we be at all shocked that many of them turn out to be embittered, politically motivated leakers or, worse, traitors to their country?
Nor is this a new problem. It's a problem with a history and a pedigree.
As far back as the 1980s, Christopher Boyce, a wire clerk with a top-secret clearance at Los Angeles-based federal contractor TRW, was caught selling U.S. satellite secrets to the Soviets. He's still serving a life sentence in prison for his crime.
More recently, Edward Snowden — a contractor-employee with Booz, Allen, Hamilton — in 2013 handed over thousands of pages of secret documents about an NSA global surveillance program to a handful of journalists and publications. Threatened with arrest for espionage, Snowden fled to Moscow, where he now lives.
Of course, it may be that some of these more recent youthful violators have been encouraged by others, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. By illegally using a homebrew email server, she was likely hacked by either the Russians or the Chinese, and made U.S. diplomatic secrets vulnerable to theft. But her criminal dereliction with the nation's secrets went unpunished.
Did Winner think she, too, would get away with stealing the nation's secrets? Did she think, as Snowden apparently did, that being politically progressive means the nation's laws don't apply to you? Or is this just the latest manifestation of anti-Trump insanity?
Whatever the answer is, it's troubling that so many people with top-secret clearances seem willing to betray their own nation's secrets. It may be time to cut way back on the number of people with access to secrets — and to make sure that those that do have access won't betray their country by stealing them.