The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, has taken steps to provide independent support for the legal defense of Reality Winner, the NSA contract employee who was recently arrested in the first instance of the Trump administration using the 100-year-old Espionage Act to prosecute an alleged journalistic source.
Winner, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of having anonymously mailed a document to The Intercept relating to a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. . . .
Belief that it is wrong for journalistic sources to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act is the key principle that moved the Press Freedom Defense Fund to provide support for Winner’s legal defense.
We at The Intercept have always opposed the use of the Espionage Act against government whistleblowers. Our stand is unwavering and we would object to the prosecution of Winner under the act even if we had no connection to the materials she is accused of disclosing. The First Amendment, not the Espionage Act, should be the framework for viewing the act of whistleblowing. Following in the steps of the Obama administration, which prosecuted more sources under the act than all previous administrations combined, the Trump Justice Department is wielding that archaic statute designed for punishing spies and traitors against someone who is suspected of contributing newsworthy material to a journalistic organization. . .
Like other journalistic outlets, we routinely verify such materials with any individuals or institutions implicated by their disclosure and seek their comment, as we explain on our website. This process carries some risks of source exposure that are impossible to mitigate when dealing with sensitive materials. Nonetheless, it is clear that we should have taken greater precautions to protect the identity of a source who was anonymous even to us. . .
Our security team will be consistently integrated into the editorial process. We will also provide revised and expanded guidelines for whistleblowers on our website. . . .
It remains core to our mission to ensure that all our journalism is carried out in a manner that honors the risks that whistleblowers take.