In what is arguably the worst case of blatant Trumpian collusion ever, President Trump retweeted the name of the whistleblower who allegedly leaked a controversial National Security Agency memo containing classified information about a Russian hacking operation that reportedly targeted American organizations.
The formerly classified information, which purportedly came from a surveillance report detailing Moscow’s alleged attempts to hack political organizations during the 2016 presidential election, was published on the website The Intercept early Saturday morning. The entire information bundle reportedly included information from the GRU’s Kremlin-connected hacking unit “the ‘Fancy Bear’ group and ‘Advanced Persistent Threat’ group ‘East Turkestan Operations,'” according to the report. Russia’s attempts to hack politically sensitive organizations during the election is also reportedly being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee.
“Knowing your rights to legally protect yourself are not national security threats,” Ryan Goodman, a constitutional law professor at NYU and the co-founder of Just Security, told the Observer in an email.
The name of the person allegedly responsible for leaking the report also came out. On Twitter, the identified whistleblower in the widely circulated report, who is now apparently in Russia, wrote that he was receiving death threats, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times has confirmed the tweet was sent by the whistleblower.
If you were arrested for leaking classified info to The Intercept, Twitter would go wild, right? It’s all over social media. The apparent whistleblower has had a lot of identity leaks lately. At this point, he looks like the poster child for a reckless leak investigation. — Peter Aldhous () December 29, 2018
Answering critics, the whistleblower responded via Twitter by insisting he’s a legitimate whistleblower who will talk to the FBI if it comes to that. He said he’s being investigated and that his name was immediately stripped from a declassified document of the leaked documents. However, Trump’s retweet and the alleged whistleblower’s name being in the AP story further put him in the spotlight.
The National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the matter. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Twitter’s social responsibility team must take notice of Trump’s active, but largely uncoordinated, mass retweeting of this particular whistleblower. Those white caps, emojis and slang remarks are hugely effective at bringing his platforms followers to his wavelength, thus inspiring viral behaviors.
“The Trump administration isn’t concerned about the government’s potential spies going public with information about how the government spied on them,” Goodman said. “The president himself is promoting the .”
Luckily, the whistleblower did not name , , or as his supposed source of classified information.