NSA Contractor Sent to Prison in Leak Case

Reality Winner arrives at a courthouse in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, after she pleaded guilty in June to copying a classified U.S. report and mailing it to an unidentified news organization. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)



In June 2017, at the height of the cascade of leaks of classified material someone leaked to the Qatar-funded website, The Intercept, a copy of a classified report on Russian attempts to penetrate US electoral systems. Because of the nitwittery at The Intercept, when the government was asked to verify the authenticity of the document they were also able to identify the leaker. The leaker, 26-year-old Air Force veteran and contract intelligence analyst improbably named Reality Winner, confessed to federal agents when questioned.

She pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage act and today she was sentenced.

Former U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Leigh Winner was sentenced Thursday to more than five years in prison after pleading guilty to leaking top-secret information about Russian election interference to a news outlet.

The sentence of 63 months for Ms. Winner, of Georgia, is the longest ever for a leak of national-defense information to the media, the Justice Department said. She pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Ms. Winner, 26, a former Air Force linguist, lived in Augusta while working as a contractor last year with Pluribus International Corp. and was assigned to the National Security Agency. She is the first government leaker to be sentenced under the World War I-era Espionage Act during the Trump administration.

Somehow, I’m supposed to feel sorry for her, but I just don’t get it.

Winner spent a year in jail before reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. Her attorneys had argued for Winner to be released on bond, noting she had no criminal record and had served honorably in the military. The judge sided with prosecutors who said Winner posed a potential flight risk and may have stolen other classified documents.

Prosecutors also used Winner’s own words against her, including a Facebook chat in which Winner once wrote to her sister: “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”

Winner’s social media postings also included some scathing opinions on President Donald Trump. Three months before her arrest, Winner posted on Facebook that climate change was a more important issue than health care “since not poisoning an entire population seems to be more in line with ‘health’ care, and not the disease care system that people voted for a soulless ginger orangutan to ‘fix.’”


The fact that previous administrations either sympathized with leakers (Obama) or were just too gutless and scared of their shadow to do anything (Bush) doesn’t mean that a new day hasn’t dawned and that people who leak classified documents for personal or political reasons won’t be hammered.

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