WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lambasts Trump, reporters over NSA leaker

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Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, blasted reporters over the arrest of Reality Winner, a 25-year-old National Security Agency contractor who may have leaked classified information to the press.

Winner is accused of illegally leaking classified national defense information, including details about alleged Russian hacking into the U.S. election system. In their press release on Monday, the Justice Department announced a criminal complaint against Winner, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia. That announcement came shortly after The Intercept published NSA documents alleging Russian hackers had targeted voting-software and local election officials prior to Election Day.

Apparently, the NSA was made aware of the documents disclosure when reporters for an unnamed news organization showed them a copy of the printed report, seeking a comment.

After investigating, the NSA narrowed the source of the document leak down to six people who had printed out the report. Winner was among them. The agency also learned Winner had been in contact with a news outlet, but did not name the outlet.

Assange responded to reports of the sequence of events with outrage. Commenting to The Daily Beast via Twitter direct message, through the WikiLeaks account on Tuesday, Assange blasted the reporter who was seeking comment, blaming them for Winner’s arrest.

Assange said, “If the FBI affidavit is accurate, the reporter concerned must be named, shamed and fired by whomever they work for to maintain industry standards.”

He continued, “Source burning reporters are a menace. They chill trust in all journalists which impedes public understanding.”

Assange appears to believe that the reporter in question is from The Intercept. He said, “It seems likely that the FBI affidavit refers to The Intercept, but not certain, hence we say ‘suspected Intercept reporter.’ But whomever this reporter was they are a menace not only to sources but to all journalists by decreasing the trust between sources and journalist and ultimately the public. Democracy dies in darkness.”

On Twitter, WikiLeaks offered a “$10,000 reward for information leading to the public exposure & termination of this ‘reporter’.”

Assange then used his private Twitter account to call on The Intercept to terminate the reporter.

The Intercept provided a statement Tuesday that says it has “no knowledge of the identity of the person who provided us with the document,” but that “the U.S. government has told news organizations that Winner was that individual.”

The statement continues:

“While the FBI’s allegations against Winner have been made public through the release of an affidavit and search warrant, which were unsealed at the government’s request, it is important to keep in mind that these documents contain unproven assertions and speculation designed to serve the government’s agenda and as such warrant skepticism.”

They made no other statements, and did not address the fate of the reporter.

Assange was also critical of the Trump administration. “The Trump administration has already capitalized on the incompetence or treachery of this reporter by gloating about her [Winner’s] arrest in press release hours after the Intercept story broke,” Assange reportedly said. “Such press releases are designed to deter future sources.”

Assange also used his personal Twitter account to express support for Winner in three tweets. Combined, they say:

“Alleged NSA whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner must be supported. She is a young women accused of courage in trying to help us know. Reality Leight Winner is no Clapper or Petraeus with ‘elite immunity’. She’s a young woman against the wall for talking to the press. It doesn’t matter why she did it or the quality the report. Acts of non-elite sources communicating knowledge should be strongly encouraged.”

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