Winner, 25, a federal contractor with Pluribus International Corp. in Augusta, Georgia, is accused of “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The arrest came after The Intercept released a classified National Security Agency report about Russian military intelligence officers’ alleged attempt to carry out a cyberattack on a voting software company and on local election officials days before the 2016 U.S. election.
Snowden can relate to Winner’s experience, as he was charged in 2013 with stealing government property and violating the Espionage Act. The former Central Intelligence Agency employee and NSA contractor has been living under asylum in Russia ever since he fled the United States that year.
Winner is currently being held in a federal detention center in Lincolnton, Georgia. Her attorney Titus Nichols fears she’s being questioned when he’s not present.
Snowden, who is president of the board for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, described the Espionage Act as “a fundamental threat to the free press” in a statement on Tuesday.
He wrote that the “World War I era law meant for spies” explicitly forbids the jury from “hearing why the defendant acted, and bars them from deciding whether the outcome was to the public’s benefit.”
Snowden says that’s especially chilling because Winner was allegedly a journalistic source “for a leading American news outlet about a matter of critical public importance,” and not a spy.
According to Snowden:
“This often-condemned law provides no space to distinguish the extraordinary disclosure of inappropriately classified information in the public interest—whistleblowing ― from the malicious disclosure of secrets to foreign governments by those motivated by a specific intent to harm to their countrymen.”
Snowden said that if America truly values free trials, Winner deserves to be released on bail.
“No matter one’s opinions on the propriety of the charges against her, we should all agree Winner should be released on bail pending trial. Even if you take all the government allegations as true, it’s clear she is neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk. To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all.”