Tag Archives: Whistleblowers

‘Stand With Reality’ Awareness Campaign to Fund Legal Defense for Alleged Whistleblower Reality Winner

‘Stand With Reality’ Awareness Campaign to Fund Legal Defense for Alleged Whistleblower Reality Winner

Stand With Reality, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of concerned individuals, is launching a campaign today to defend N.S.A. contractor Ms. Reality Leigh Winner against an overzealous prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

Winner has been charged under the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old statute originally designed for spies and saboteurs, for allegedly giving a document vital to the public’s understanding of potential Russian interference in U.S. election systems to a news organization.

 

Stand With Reality believes the charge against Winner is grossly disproportionate to her alleged offense, and is designed to create a chilling effect on investigative journalism by dissuading sources from sharing information that is critical to the public interest. The group is dedicated to raising public awareness of Winner’s case, as well as the U.S. government’s persistent abuse of the Espionage Act to silence its critics and stifle journalism.

 

“The document Winner is alleged to have given The Intercept is vital for understanding how U.S. election systems are seriously vulnerable to hacking. It is absurd that the government is charging her under the draconian Espionage Act rather than helping states fix our country’s election security,” said Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist project director and co-founder of Stand With Reality.

 

The organization aims to fully fund Winner’s legal defense team headed by attorney Titus Nichols, of the Augusta, Georgia law firm of Bell & Brigham. Stand with Reality launched a crowdfunding campaign today to cover both legal fees and public awareness efforts. “It is refreshing to know that so many people that Ms. Winner has never known have come together to offer their support and prayers for her,” notes Nichols. “Your pledge of additional support, for fees related to her case, is commendable,” he adds.

 

“The new Stand with Reality group means the world to me. Not only are they going to be raising money for my daughter’s legal defense, they’ll also be raising awareness. Reality won’t be forgotten, and she’ll have a whole organization behind her,” said Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, of Kingsville, Texas. The Winner Family will be closing their GoFundMe effort and directing supporters to the new Reality Winner Defense Fund hosted by Courage to Resist in collaboration with Stand with Reality. Meanwhile, the UK-based Courage Foundation is undertaking fundraising and support efforts on behalf of Winner throughout Europe.

 

First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund provided a grant of $50,000 which will act as a matching fund for the first $50,000 raised for this campaign between now and August 30th. First Look is the publisher of The Intercept, which published its story based on a document allegedly provided by Winner after receiving it anonymously. The Fund is committed to supporting legal fights where key principles of press freedom are at stake, including the defense of journalistic sources like Winner facing this Espionage Act charge.

 

Winner, 25, is an Air Force veteran and recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal for those who have “distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service.” She is universally described by friends and family as a “patriot”.

 

She is currently being denied bail on the basis that she is a flight risk, despite assurances from her family, and their offer of their 20-acre Southern Texas ranch as collateral.

 

“We believe the prosecution is trying to demoralize Reality and her family by denying her bail,” said Rainey Reitman, open Internet advocate and co-founder of Stand with Reality. “They’re punishing her with months in jail, and denying her the opportunity to fully participate in her defense preparations, all before a jury hears the merits of the government’s case.”

 

Stand with Reality was founded by three individuals dedicated to open government, free expression, civil liberties, and the rule of law:


  • Jeff Paterson, a Marine veteran and web developer, has spent the last 11 years as the project director of Courage to Resist, which provides legal and advocacy assistance to military war resisters.

  • Trevor Timm, a lawyer and free speech advocate, is the co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which helps defend the rights of journalists and whistleblowers worldwide.

  • Rainey Reitman, a writer and privacy advocate, leads the advocacy team for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization, and works as a nonprofit consultant.

     

For complete campaign information visit: https://StandWithReality.org
New Yorkers Show Solidarity for Reality Winner, NSA Contractor Charged Under Espionage Act

New Yorkers Show Solidarity for Reality Winner, NSA Contractor Charged Under Espionage Act

New York, NY — The indictment of NSA contractor Reality Leigh Winner may be the opening salvo in the Trump Administration’s self-described war on leaks. Reality is facing a serious charge under the Espionage Act for allegedly sharing an NSA report on Russian attempts to compromise the 2016 US Presidential election.  Concerned New Yorkers and political activists will show their support for Reality on Wednesday afternoon by gathering on the south steps of New York’s Union Square to declare they #StandWithReality 

When: 2:30pm EST, TODAY, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where: Union Square Park (South Steps), 101 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003 

What: Vigil in support of Reality Leigh Winner, typographic placards will spell out #STANDWITHREALITY 

Who: Concerned New Yorkers in support of Reality Winner hosted by People for Bernie Sanders, Courage Foundation, Democrats.com, and The Sparrow Project

Why: On June 5th, 2017, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, a federal contractor in Augusta, Georgia (USA), on charges of allegedly sharing an NSA report on Russian military intelligence’s hacking efforts during the final days of the  2016 election with a news outlet.  Reality Winner deserves widespread support as she faces an administration that has openly declared war on journalists and their sources.

100,000+ Supporters Urge President Obama to Commute Chelsea Manning’s Sentence

100,000+ Supporters Urge President Obama to Commute Chelsea Manning’s Sentence

On Saturday, the 10th, the petition on the WeThePeople platform in support of Chelsea Manning accumulated over 100,000 signatures, four days before the December 14th deadline. The goal was reached in time to garner a response from the White House to their call for President Obama to act now to commute Chelsea’s sentence. Manning is in the seventh year of a 35-year sentence and was subjected to in unlawful pretrial solitary confinement for nearly a year.

Read the petition HERE

Chase Strangio, an attorney for Chelsea Manning stated: “After six and a half years in custody, including the torture of solitary confinement for almost a year, the ongoing denial of her basic human dignity and medically necessary health care, it is time for Chelsea Manning to be freed. President Obama can give Chelsea perhaps her only chance to live as the woman that she is and he must act to save her. The ACLU, other leading LGBTQ rights organizations, and over 100,000 people across the country have come together to say, ‘enough is enough.’ Commute Chelsea’s sentence so we don’t have to mourn her untimely death in the coming years.”

More information on the clemency campaign: FreeChelsea.com

Last week, The American Civil Liberties Union and over a dozen LGBTQ groups sent a letter to President Obama urging the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information to the media to raise public awareness regarding the impact of war on innocent civilians. Amnesty International also sent a letter to President Obama supporting the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence to the time she has already served in prison.

Vincent Ward, appellate counsel for Chelsea Manning said, “Chelsea has already served six long years for her bravery in attempting to provide the transparency president Obama promised. It is past time for him to order the Army to commute her sentence to time served.”

Last month, Chelsea Manning’s legal defense team released a letter sent to the U.S. Army and the Office of the Pardon Attorney, requesting the commutation of Ms. Manning’s 35 year court-martial sentence to time served and “a first chance to live a real, meaningful life.”

“Chelsea Manning poses a danger to no one. She is a brilliant, humble, and compassionate human being, and the world would be a better place if she were released,” explains Evan Greer, Campaign Director for Fight For The Future, in her Op-Ed for the Huffington Post. “No one should have to endure the suffering that she has endured. It’s time for this to end.”

David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress stated: “Chelsea Manning has been in prison for longer than any other person in United States history who disclosed information in the public interest–and much of her time there has been spent under particularly inhumane conditions.  It’s surely time for her to be released–the alternative is a life behind bars for actions that did not harm anyone.”

Text of the petition

Commute Chelsea Manning’s Sentence to Time Served

Chelsea Manning has been incarcerated since May 2010, including in unlawful, unusually harsh solitary confinement for 11 months before her trial. She has spent the past six years helping others.

Chelsea has already served more time in prison than any individual in United States history who disclosed information in the public interest. Her disclosures harmed no one.

President Obama, as you and the medical community have recognized, prisoners who face solitary confinement are more likely to commit suicide.

Chelsea is a woman in a men’s facility facing ongoing mistreatment. She has attempted suicide and has been punished with additional time in solitary confinement for her desperation. Her life is at risk and you can save her.

Please commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence to time served.

Additional resources

For interviews, please email press@balestramedia.com

Laura Poitras & Edward Snowden Awarded 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling

Laura Poitras & Edward Snowden Awarded 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, The Ridenhour Prizes announced that Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras will be jointly awarded the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling for exposing the US government’s vast warrantless surveillance operation. The revelations sparked a debate on the constitutionality of mass surveillance, and how technology has transformed the parameters of individual privacy.

In reflecting upon its decision, the awards committee said, “We have selected Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras for their work in exposing the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional bulk collection of the communications of millions of people living in the United States. Their act of courage was undertaken at great personal risk and has sparked a critical and transformative debate about mass surveillance in a country where privacy is considered a constitutional right. We particularly wanted to salute the role that Poitras has played in this story, as we feel that her contribution has not been adequately recognized by the American media.

“We want to take this opportunity to also salute Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman, Ewen MacAskill and the other journalists involved with this incredibly complex story on both sides of the Atlantic, who under tremendous governmental pressure have worked tirelessly to make the world aware of the true scope of the surveillance state.”

Snowden, who had worked first as a computer specialist for the CIA and then as a contractor for the NSA, had grown increasingly disillusioned by his first-hand experience of the government’s abuse of privacy.  And he had watched as the traditional oversight bodies – the courts and the Congress – had abdicated their constitutional responsibility to rein in unlawful executive-branch conduct.

“Authority cannot be legitimate if it is not accountable,” said Snowden upon hearing that he had been awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. “Public awareness of the NSA’s unconstitutional activities is leading to the first significant intelligence reforms in nearly four decades. These revelations remind us that there are moments in history when a free press is our last line of defense against unlawful government activities carried out in secret and in our name.

“It is a privilege to be welcomed into the ranks of the Ridenhour awardees, people who have inspired us through their fearless commitment to truth-telling. I’m especially grateful to be honored alongside Laura Poitras, whose brilliant work over the last year has changed what the public thinks about living under surveillance.”

Once he had made his decision to release documents exposing illegal NSA activity to specific journalists, Snowden chose his contacts with great care. He turned to Poitras for her fearless reporting in the post-9/11 era. Poitras, said Snowden, “demonstrated the courage, personal experience and skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous assignment any journalist can be given—reporting on the secret misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world—making her an obvious choice.” Poitras was the first to establish encrypted contact with Snowden and helped to initiate safe lines of communications with other journalists.

In addition to providing journalists with evidence documenting NSA abuses, Snowden made the unprecedented decision to not hide his identity, but rather to reveal himself as the source of the disclosures.  In early June 2013, Poitras and the Guardian’s Greenwald and MacAskill traveled to Hong Kong to meet Snowden.

“Being entrusted by Edward Snowden with disclosures he risked his life to reveal to the public has been the most profound and humbling experience of my life,” Poitras said, on hearing that she and Snowden had been awarded the prize. “Reporting on this story alongside Glenn Greenwald has been rewarding and mind-blowing.  I share this award with Glenn. People are defined by their actions. Ron Ridenhour learned of the massacre in My Lai and revealed it. Edward Snowden saw a system of mass suspicionless surveillance and exposed it. Without their courage we would know of neither.”

The first story, written by Greenwald and published by the Guardian on June 6, 2013 revealed that the NSA wascollecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret court order. Subsequent reporting in the Guardian and the Washington Post exposed previously unknown programs such as PRISM, which allows the government warrantless access to the servers of such internet giants as Google, Yahoo and Facebook, and XKeyscore, which supports the wide-reaching collection of online data, from search histories to emails and online chats.

With The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling we are also recognizing the importance of Poitras’s work as a documentary filmmaker focusing on America post 9/11.  Since 2006 she has been subjected to repeated interrogations and detentions at US borders. Poitras currently lives in Berlin where she is editing the final film in a trilogy on post 9/11, a documentary on surveillance. Along with Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, she is a co-Founding Editor at The Intercept.

Snowden left Hong Kong on June 23 en route to Latin America, accompanied by Wikileaks journalist Sarah Harrison. While transiting in Moscow, Snowden was denied onward travel because his passport had been revoked. He spent more than a month in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport and applied for asylum in more than 20 countries before being granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year. He currently lives in Moscow while he is unable to travel.

Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras will be awarded the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling on Wednesday, April 30th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The event is presented in partnership with The Fund for Constitutional Government, The Project On Government Oversight and The Government Accountability Project. It is open to press.

About The Ridenhour Prizes

The Ridenhour Prizes recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society. The Prizes are named after investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour, to commemorate his lifetime of fearless truth-telling and to inspire others to do the same.

In 1969, Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon describing the horrific events at My Lai — the infamous massacre of the Vietnam War. Although the upper echelons of the military establishment resisted his revelations, his dogged persistence eventually brought the scandal to the attention of the American public and the world at large.

Ridenhour later became a respected investigative journalist, winning the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism in 1987 for a yearlong investigation of a New Orleans tax scandal. He died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52. At the time of his death, he was working on an article for the London Review of Books, had co-produced a story on state militias for NBC’s Dateline, and had just delivered a series of lectures commemorating the 30th anniversary of My Lai.

The Ridenhour Prizes were established by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation in partnership with The Fund for Constitutional Government, Government Accountability Project, and The Project on Government Oversight. For more information, visit www.ridenhour.org.

About The Nation Institute

A nonprofit media center, The Nation Institute is dedicated to strengthening the independent press and advancing social justice and civil rights. Our dynamic range of programs includes a bestselling book publishing imprint, Nation Books; our award-winning Investigative Fund, which supports groundbreaking investigative journalism; the widely read and syndicated website TomDispatch; the Victor S. Navasky Internship Program at The Nation magazine; and Journalism Fellowships that fund over 25 high-profile reporters every year. Work produced by The Nation Institute has sparked Congressional hearings, new legislation, FBI investigations and the resignation of government officials, and has a regular impact on the most urgent social and political issues of our day. For more information, visit www.nationinstitute.org.

About the Fertel Foundation

Energized by a passion for weaving ideas and people together, the Fertel Foundation, based in New York and New Orleans, has a special interest in initiatives from which new communities and new insights may emerge and those that challenge entrenched communities of power. The New Orleans-based foundation, established in 1999, also helps rebuild a better New Orleans — and create national models — in a post-Katrina world. For more information, visit www.fertel.com.

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, will have limited availability for interviews. To speak to Brian, or to RSVP to attend the 11th Annual Ridenhour Prizes Ceremony and Luncheon in DC, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.716.1953 or christina@fitzgibbonmedia.com

NSA Invokes “National Defense” and the Espionage Act to Stonewall MIT Student’s FOIA Request on Nelson Mandela

NSA Invokes “National Defense” and the Espionage Act to Stonewall MIT Student’s FOIA Request on Nelson Mandela

[WASHINGTON, DC] Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Defense Intelligence Agency over the spy agencies’ failure to comply with his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records on anti-apartheid activist and South African President, Nelson Mandela. Shapiro’s requests seek, among other records, documents pertaining to the U.S intelligence community’s role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest and Mandela’s placement on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008. Shapiro is already suing the Central Intelligence Agency over this same failure. Shapiro wants to know why the NSA, FBI, DIA, and CIA viewed Mandela as a threat to American security, and what actions the Agency took to thwart Mandela’s efforts to secure racial justice and democracy in South Africa.

Notably, in addition to invoking the Espionage Act (Title 18 U.S. Code 798), the NSA’s denial of Shapiro’s FOIA request (see embedded document) invokes “national defense” to support the agency’s refusal to even acknowledge the existence of records about Mandela. Asserts the NSA, “the fact of the existence or non-existence of the materials you request is a currently and properly classified matter [….] to be kept secret in the interest of national defense[.]”

A .PDF of Shapiro’s Lawsuit Filed This Morning is Available HERE

Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. His pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is represented by FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Two Key Features of Shapiro’s Lawsuit & Broader Pro-Transparency Effort:

1) Despite longstanding public knowledge of definite (if undefined) U.S. intelligence assistance to apartheid South Africa in general, and likely involvement in Mandela’s 1962 arrest in particular, much of the U.S. and world press has paid distressingly little attention to these issues. Even in the wake of Mandela’s death, these issues, including the fact that Mandela remained on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008, have for the most part remained ignored or discounted. In addition to beginning to fill these massive holes in public knowledge of U.S. intelligence operations, Shapiro’s FOIA efforts will bring much-needed attention to these vital topics, as well as to the U.S. intelligence community’s continued outrageous aversion to transparency.

2) The Freedom of Information Act is broken. The Department of Justice and the CIA continue to prevent the FOIA release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program, despite the Senate Committee’s call for the report’s release. And as the Associated Press reported last week, despite entering office promising to be “the most transparent administration in history,” the Obama administration cites “national security” to censor and deny FOIA releases “more than ever.” The failures of the NSA, FBI, DIA, and CIA to comply with Shapiro’s FOIA requests for records on Nelson Mandela are further glaring examples of this anti-transparency trend. For this reason, Shapiro is not only turning to the courts to force agency compliance with his FOIA requests, he is also turning to the American people to address the ongoing crisis of secrecy more broadly. To this end, Shapiro is urging all persons with access to unreleased records pertaining to illegal, unconstitutional, or immoral government activities to return those records to their rightful owners, the American people. As Shapiro is quoted below, “See something, leak something.”

According to Shapiro:
Regarding the Mandela lawsuit »

“Though the U.S. intelligence community is long believed to have been involved in Mandela’s arrest, little specific public information exists regarding this involvement. Similarly, though the U.S. intelligence community is long known to have routinely provided information to the South African regime regarding the anti-apartheid movement, little specific public information exists about these activities either. Further, despite now being universally hailed as a hero and freedom fighter against gross injustice, Mandela was designated a terrorist by the United States government and remained on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008.

In bringing suit against the NSA, FBI, DIA, and CIA to compel compliance with my Freedom of Information Act requests, I seek access to records that will begin answering the following questions:

What was the extent and purpose of the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of Nelson Mandela prior to his arrest? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in Mandela’s arrest and prosecution? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in the broader effort to surveil and subvert the South African anti-apartheid movement? To what extent, and for what objectives, did the U.S. intelligence community surveil Mandela following his release from prison? To what extent, if any, did the U.S. intelligence community continue providing information regarding Mandela to the apartheid regime following Mandela’s release from prison? What information did the U.S. intelligence community provide American policymakers regarding Mandela and the South African anti-apartheid movement? To what extent, and to what ends, did the U.S. intelligence community surveil the anti-apartheid movement in the United States? How did the United States government come to designate Nelson Mandela a terrorist threat to this country? How did this designation remain unchanged until 2008? And what was the role of the U.S. intelligence community in this designation and the maintenance thereof?”

Regarding the crisis of secrecy more broadly »

“Democracy cannot meaningfully exist without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy. The Bush administration initiated a disastrous welter of anti-transparency initiatives, yet the Obama administration has been, if anything, worse. Despite entering office promising unprecedented openness, the Obama administration has provided just the opposite, including bringing more Espionage Act prosecutions of whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined, and invoking “national security” to deny FOIA requests “more than ever.” FOIA is broken, and this sad reality is just one component among many of the ongoing crisis of secrecy we now face.

The records of government are the property of the people. Yet, unknown billions of pages are needlessly hidden from the American people behind closed doors and “classified” markings. Undefined “national security” concerns ostensibly legitimize this secrecy. Yet, as wrote Judge Murray Gurfein in his ruling against the Nixon administration’s infamous attempt to prevent the New York Times from publishing the leaked “Pentagon Papers,” “The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions.”

Building upon the Pentagon Papers ruling, we as a nation need to foster a broader understanding of “national security.” In the interest of preserving the national security borne not of secrecy and state surveillance, but rather of the free exchange of ideas made possible by “our free institutions,” I call upon all persons with access to unreleased records pertaining to illegal, unconstitutional, or immoral government activities to return those records to their rightful owners, the American people.

It’s not surprising those in power wish to keep their actions secret. What’s surprising is how readily we tolerate it. We are all familiar with the security-oriented signage instructing us to “See something, Say something.” In the interest of promoting a fuller conception of national security, I add, “See something, Leak something.” The viability of our democracy may depend upon it.”

To arrange an interview with Ryan Shapiro please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. A high resolution copy of the photo of Ryan Shapiro above is available royalty-free × photo credit Stephanie Crumley.  You can follow Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro