NSA Contractor Reality Winner Sentenced to 5 Years, 3 Months

On Thursday NPR reported a Georgia federal judge sentenced Reality Winner to 5 years, 3 months for leaking top secret classified documents to the online publication The Intercept.

Winner spent over a year in jail without bond after the judge sided with prosecutors that she was a flight risk by using her own words against her and saying they couldn’t be sure she didn’t possess other stolen documents, the AP reported at the time of her arraignment.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari told the judge Winner wrote in a notebook, “I want to burn the White House down … find somewhere in Kurdistan to live. Ha-ha!” and that she told her sister in a Facebook post, “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”

Solari informed the judge at that time that investigators had also discovered evidence Winner “inserted a portable hard drive in a top-secret Air Force computer before she left the military last year. She said authorities don’t know what happened to the drive or what was on it.”

Then in June of this year, after more than a year in jail, Winner agreed to a plea deal to charges of violating the Espionage Act and has been waiting for a judge to sign off on the agreement since that time.

Without the deal Winner was facing 10 years with a $250,000 fine if convicted. The deal is 63 months in jail, 3 years supervised release, and 100 hours of community service.

Winner is a former Air Force linguist and speaks Arabic and Farsi. The 25-year-old had top-secret security clearance and was employed by the private federal contractor Pluribus International Corp in Augusta, Georgia.

You can read The Intercept story here, posted June 5, 2017.

You can read the government’s Criminal Complaint here, filed June 5, 2017.

Winner was caught after The Intercept contacted federal authorities saying they had received a copy of a document that detailed top-secret information about Russian military intelligence attempted to attack U.S. elections “specifically by trying to ‘phish’ more than 100 local election officials.”

The Intercept sent a copy to officials who were then able to identify Winner by being able to identify the exact printer through “microdots” based on the fold of the paper. The investigators were then able to trace it to only 6 possible people with access to that printer, then narrowed it down to Winner by locating emails on her computer to The Intercept.

Winner’s case is the first to be prosecuted under the Trump administration for leaking to the press under the Espionage Act. The Obama administration prosecuted eight, more than all other administrations combined, NPR reported.

However, NPR goes on to say, Winner’s sentence “would be the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for an unauthorized disclosure to the media,” with federal prosecutors justifying the longer sentence saying, “Winner acted ‘willfully’ and was always aware the report she leaked was classified as top secret.”

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