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Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, sentenced to 63 months in classified leak case

August 23, 2018

Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist and National Security Agency contractor, was sentenced Thursday morning in connection with leaking classified material to the media involving Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Winner, 26, was ordered to serve 63 months behind bars during a sentencing hearing held before Chief U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall in Augusta, Georgia.

The first person charged under President Trump’s administration with leaking classified information, Winner pleaded guilty in June to one count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information a felony offense under the U.S. Espionage Act stemming from sharing classified material with an online news outlet.

Winner faced up to a decade behind bars, but prosecutors proposed a sentence of 63 months, or a little over five years, in exchange for her plea - “the longest received by a defendant for an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to the media,” U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine said in a statement touting Thursday’s outcome.

Court documents lack specifics concerning Winner’s crime, but case filings and previous reporting makes it clear she was charged with leaking a top-secret NSA report involving Russian “cyber espionage operations” waged during the 2016 race.

The subject of an article published by The Intercept in June 2017, the NSA document detailed Russian efforts to infiltrate an American company in Aug. 2016 in order to “obtain information on election-related software and hardware solutions.”

“The document Winner compromised did, in fact, contain TOP SECRET information about the sources and methods used to acquire the intelligence described in the report,” Mr. Christine said Thursday.

“Winner’s willful, purposeful disclosure caused exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “That harm included, but was not limited to, impairing the ability of the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information similar to the information the defendant disclosed. This was, by no means, a victimless crime.”

Winner accessed the report while employed by Pluribus International Corp., a government contracting firm, and printed out a copy from her office and mailed it to the website, according to court documents.

“All of these actions I did willfully, meaning I did them of my own free will,” Winner confessed at a previous hearing.

Winner was arrested at her Augusta residence two days prior to the article’s publication and has been held behind bars ever since.

Her attorneys said Winner “recognizes that actions have consequences, and that she has learned from her mistake and is prepared to accept the consequences of her actions.”

“What Reality hopes others will take away from this is that she cares deeply for others, has always loved her family and her country, and that she recognizes that the path forward to making the world a better place should always be through lawful actions,” the attorneys said in a statement.

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