Who Is Reality Winner?

Published Wednesday Dec 27, 2017.

For more, see Kerry Howley, New Yorker.

“Who is Reality Winner?” from Kerry Howley details the life of a recent whistleblower in the US. What I like about this particular article is the way it details her life: you’re led through her development as a child, teenager, and eventual professional cryptolinguist in the US intelligence community, and grow to understand how her perspective on geopoilitics has been shaped. You learn about what drives her and what she cares about, and why; toward the end, as the whistleblowing is detailled, you can see how details about her life and motives are twisted by the intelligence community to paint her as a dangerous rogue. It got me thinking a lot about myself, and whether I could be painted in a similar light. I’m certain I could, and I know it would be unjust; it seems like it was in her case, too.

She was responsible for leaking classified documents regarding Trump (“Orange Fascist”, as she calls him) and the Russians to a podcast.

What’s most striking is that she very genuinely wanted to do good and help. Regardless of whether you’d see a whistleblower as a hero or a traitor, it would be hard to argue that she didn’t very genuinely believe that what she was doing was to help people. She seems to have lived her whole life trying to do good, for a definition of good that she’s very clear on.

Reality’s favorite part of the job was “saving lives,” but this was not, in the end, the way she wanted to save them. She wanted to do something humanitarian and directly so; she had thought the Air Force could make that possible by sending her abroad to places in need of her language skills and drive to help. In her daydreams, Reality passed shoe boxes full of toys to children in refugee camps in a war-torn country on Christmas morning. She knew that this was not realistic, that this was not what was needed, and she treated this dream with a wry, self-deprecating lightness. She gave what was actually needed: money to the Red Cross, donations to the White Helmets. Then she went back to work transcribing the tapped communications of suspected militants 7,000 miles away.

I’d like to watch her story unfold, and I’ll pay it close attention from now on. You can catch up and read her story here.