As some of you may know, I am a strong advocate of gender equality and women’s rights, and I have taken a particular interest in Reality Winner’s plight. I’ve been an advocate for Reality for months now, and have done some research on different aspects of her case, and the more I learn, the more I am appalled.
I’ve written about her treatment, and why we should be paying attention. I’ve written about how mainstream media continues to ignore her case, even after reporting on her initial arrest. And I’ve written about how we need to be talking to our government officials and candidates running for office in the upcoming elections about closing the gaps in whistleblower protection laws, and about the use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers. It would seem that with a case of this magnitude, more people would be paying attention. But due to lack of media coverage, with the exception of a few big names such as actress Rosie O’Donnell, political Twitter personality Brian Krassentien, and Thomas Drake, Reality and her family mainly gain supporters one tweet at a time, one Facebook post at a time, and one protest march at a time.
When I sit and look at what I have written as a whole, about Reality’s case, there seems to be a common denominator that keeps popping up that I can no longer ignore. I’m seeing a pattern of what women are currently fighting back against. A pattern that has gone on for decades, nay, centuries, of men having the upper hand. A pattern of women’s oppression, inequality and injustice. You see, sexism hides everywhere, from the darkest corners, to right under our noses. And Reality is feeling the full force of it.
Looking at the surface, you may be wondering how I’ve come to this conclusion. I’ll show you. First, we look at the many cases of whistleblowers that any average person, with a daily life outside of the news can remember, and most of them are, or were, biologically men, when they blew the whistle. We can easily name Thomas Drake, John Kiarku, Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Wigand, and even Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. But when we think of women whistleblowers, although there are plenty to choose from, we struggle to recall names.
Why is it that when a male blows the whistle, we will tend to remember his name, yet when a woman blows the whistle, on equally important issues, it is the issue we remember, and not her name? Many people remember the Enron scandal, or at least hearing about it, but don’t know it was Sherron Watkins who exposed the company’s lies and fraud. And even more alarmingly, many remember that the FBI was alleged to have failed to act on information, provided by agents in Minnesota, about one of the figures involved in the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. Some even say that had the FBI acted on that information, 9/11 may not have even happened. But who was the whistleblower? A few may remember, but for the most part, Coleen Rowley is just another woman.
Upon this realization, I started looking into media coverage, since that’s how a majority of the public finds out what’s going on in our country. Mainstream media, such as MSNBC, CNN, The Washington Post, NY Times, and yes, even Fox, along with many others, have taken on the charge of getting information to the American people. Yes, there are biases and twisted stories, but some form of whatever the big topic is, is getting out there. If we know what the general topic is, we can research on our own, or head to our preferred networks. But without a topic, a name, anything, the general public doesn’t know the story even exists. We heard the names of Snowden, Drake, and even Assange, from these news outlets, so one would think, especially in the era of the Women’s Movement, these outlets would jump all over a young woman who stands accused of blowing the whistle on the Russian hacking interference in our 2016 presidential election.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, even in 2018 America, where we tell our daughters they can grow up to be anything they want to be. It’s mortifying that this may be another case in which we remember the issue but forget her name, because she is a woman and mainstream refuses to update coverage. This should not happen, and we need to remember her name. Our country pushes “See something, say something,” but it has no role model for children to look up to. With Reality Winner being accused of blowing the whistle to help expose Russian hacking efforts, it comes to mind that this is a courageous act and could be used as an example of what we’re teaching our children. We shouldn’t let her gender make us forget her name. That would be a travesty for our kids’ futures.
Yet mainstream still continues to ignore Reality, day in and day out. Any time I watch a news station, there’s always something new about Trump, Russiagate, or Stormygate. There are always quoted tweets or a video clip of Trump foaming at the mouth. But there’s no air time for something as important as being accused of leaking a document highlighting that a foreign government hacked into some of our election support companies. Is the mainstream media discriminatory against women?
However, media isn’t the only issue. Chauvinism even flows throughout Donald Trump’s presidential administration and within the Department of Justice. A simple browse through the Twitter feeds of Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, et al, gives a quick sense of why the Women’s Movements around the country are so outraged with this administration. From trying to regulate what women can and can not do with their bodies, to bragging about grabbing them by the pussy, and all the sexual assault allegations in between, the Trump Administration has that “good ‘ole days, women should keep quiet unless spoken to” mentality that many find toxic.
The Trump Administration was admittedly actively seeking out any leakers during the time Reality was approached by a group of mostly armed, male FBI agents. This was made clear in a NY Times report headlined “Intimate Look Into Trump Presidency” that contained details of a meeting between Trump and James Comey, who was then head of the FBI. The report stated:
In the same meeting in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end the Flynn investigation, the men bonded over leaks of sensitive government information.
“I said I was eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message,” Mr. Comey wrote. But, he explained, prosecuting journalists “was tricky” for legal reasons.
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey to talk to “Sessions,” referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “and see what we can do about being more aggressive.”
And it seems they figured out their aggressive plan. During the entire FBI interrogation, in which she cooperated fully, Reality was the only female present. She was informed that there were search warrants, including one of her person, and she knew, as most of us do, that the same gender must be present for a bodily search. Female searches female, and male searches male. Knowing this, Reality nervously sat with the group of mostly armed, male agents for hours, feeling intimidated, but fully cooperating. It boggles the mind to think that the FBI wouldn’t have one single female on the team that originally interrogated Reality. The Trump Administration was still in cover-up mode at this point, and wasn’t going to let anyone get away with a slap on the wrist for allegedly exposing that it knew about Russia’s meddling all along. Especially a female, who should have stayed in her place.
Now if the misogyny that Reality is currently up against still isn’t quite clear, we haven’t looked at the Depart of Justice yet. Reality was charged under the Espionage Act, which itself is a whole other unjust problem facing whistleblowers, which I briefly covered in a previous write-up. The charge under the Espionage Act has allowed the United States government to virtually silence her from the beginning. Anything she was to say from that point forward would be recorded, twisted out of context, and used against her in court. Also, the prosecutors have a fairly easy task of proving the violation under the Espionage Act, that the document was classified at the time it was alleged to have been released, because classified information is labeled as such due to its risk of harm to the public. Basically, they just have to prove that the unauthorized disclosure took place. This is important to note because the information that was in the document is now public knowledge: that Russia did, in fact, hack our election support companies.
What makes things even more difficult are the prosecution’s (at times ridiculous) arguments and a magistrate’s willingness to rule based solely on an absurd claim. To date, Magistrate Brian Epps has affirmed nearly every argument from the government’s prosecuting team, and denied nearly every argument presented by Reality’s defense. This includes being denied the ability to mention the document, or the fact that the information it contained did not pose a threat to the public. This also includes the denial of mentioning that Russia hacked the 2016 US Presidential Election, or any news or media about the Russian hacking. Furthermore, this includes the denial of 40 out of 41 subpoenas. And Magistrate Epps making this decision seemingly out of the blue, in addition to cancelling the specificity hearing that had been scheduled for the witness subpoenas. This, of course, was after hearing the prosecution’s argument that it was a waste of time and tax payer money that 41 subpoenas were allowed.
However, all that isn’t specifically where the DOJ meets female prejudice. Sometimes we find it hiding in the shadows. Along with the arguments stated, Magistrate Epps also affirmed the prosecution’s argument and denied Reality’s bond, despite the facts that she gave up her passport, offered to wear an ankle monitor and be in the custody of her parents, who offered their family home as collateral. Among the reasons that Reality was denied bond, some had to do with her being intelligent, not knowing how much information she has in her head, and that Reality knows how to change a SIM card (who doesn’t?) Then, the prosecutors brought up that Reality had recently gone on a trip to honor her deceased father. They argued the fact of a woman’s travelling alone to Belize:
by herself, for only three days, including travel. Nothing criminal about that, Your Honor, but it seems odd.
That statement alone, made by US Attorney Jennifer Solari, for the prosecution, in a Georgia Federal Courtroom, is evidence that sexism is ingrained into American culture. For a country that calls itself free, where all persons are created equal, it seems odd that that statement could be included in an argument, and be considered by a Magistrate, in order to come to a decision in a PRE-trial bond hearing, for this non-violent woman with no priors. Essentially, prosecutors are conveying the idea, without saying it, that this 26-year-old US Air Force veteran is more likely to be a terrorist sympathizer than an independent woman with the ability to travel by herself.
And the misogyny in the courtroom doesn’t stop there. When you compare Reality’s case to some of the more notable, or even recent, cases against men, it’s fairly easy to see the gender discrimination:
Rick Gates took a plea deal in order to avoid more serious charges of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, bank fraud, and conspiracy. Taking the plea deal meant pleading guilty to the charge of conspiracy against the United States and lying to authorities, which comes with some pretty decent side provisions for Gates. The Daily Mail reported that Gates’
guilty-plea deal references a special provision in sentencing guidelines that offers probation for those who cooperate with investigators and also repeatedly says Gate’s actions came “at Manafort’s instruction.”
So basically, a slap on the wrist, as long as Gates cooperates.
Then there’s Bill Cosby, who has been accused by multiple women of drug-facilitated sexual assaults, rapes, and sexual battery, dating back to 1965. His sexual assaults didn’t come to light until comedian Hannibal Buress’ video went viral in October of 2004. Because most of the assaults were past the statute of limitations to be tried, many of the alleged victims never got their day in court. That’s why everyone was so hopeful during Cosby’s first trial, where he stood accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. But the jury came back deadlocked and it was declared a mistrial.
However, when Cosby was taken back to court a second time, he was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Finally, at least a small sigh of relief could be had for as many as 60 women. During all this back and forth in court, bail was set at $1 million, and he was also ordered to give up his passport. After being accused of drugging and sexually assaulting more than 35 women (at the time bail was set) and eventually being found guilty, Bill Cosby was allowed a luxury that Reality Winner was not. He was able to be at home during his trial.
While there are plenty of more well-known cases to choose from, Ricco McHam’s is definitely worth mentioning. His name may not be a nationally recognized, but if you live around Charlotte, NC, you probably saw his picture flashed up on the news, back in June 2017. (Which coincidentally happens to be around the same time Reality was arrested.) McHam was originally charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of his friend, Markas Vereen, in a dispute that McHam’s family said was associated with their dangerous lifestyle. McHam drove to the hospital after Vereen was shot and was subsequently arrested. In addition to the murder charge, McHam was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. He was already a convicted felon, had been arrested 16 times since 2014 with priors ranging from assault on a female, to firearms violations and drug trafficking.
Yet, even being a convicted felon with prior violent charges, McHam got bail set at $275,000 by Superior Court Judge Bob Bell. McHam eventually came up with the money and posted bail. He was placed on a 24-hour home detention and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. Despite this, McHam fled, cutting off his monitoring device. He was eventually captured by police, but Judge Bell defended his decision to set bail stating:
$275,000 is a lot of money, even for a murder case. I’m going to say that bond was appropriate for that case. …And there are going to be cases when a person doesn’t show up. That’s not chump change. For somebody to make a bond that size, somebody’s gotta dig deep in that pocket. I’d have trouble doing it.
McHam ended up pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. So, even after the priors, being a convicted felon, killing his friend, and skipping out on bond which caused a statewide manhunt, he will spend a little over three years in prison. Whether it was an accident or not, it’s hard to wrap your brain around McHam’s case.
Now let’s bring this back to Reality Winner, who was accused of releasing one document one time. It’s important to also remember the fact that Reality has not been accused of any violent crimes, nor does she have a prior history with law enforcement, and she has not been convicted of anything. She has been denied bail four times, which makes it extremely difficult to prepare for trial and it looks like Reality will stay behind bars, without a conviction, until her trial in October. This means she will have spent one year & four months in jail, and ultimately be sentenced to less time than she’s already served, or even be found innocent.
Reality’s plight is one that we should be paying attention to. Not only is she being silenced because she allegedly called Trump out for lying, but also our great country of chauvinism has its hand in the cookie jar as well. I’m not grasping at anything here, just connecting the dots. Reality Winner is up against one of the most ultimate cases of misogynistic oppression to date. She needs our help and we can’t let her down.
*All views are my own.
** For more information, including on how you can help, please visit standwithreality.org , join the Facebook Group and on Twitter follow @standbyreality and @bjwinnersdavis