Remember Reality Winner? She’s the NSA worker who sent a copy of a confidential report about Russian hacking to the Intercept. Today she was sentenced to more than five years in prison after reaching a plea deal in June. CNN reports:
The former US Air Force linguist wore a small grin as she sat down in the Augusta, Georgia, courtroom Thursday morning and was comforted by one of her attorneys, who defended her character.
“She’s a good person,” said attorney John Bell. “Someone who didn’t understand the magnitude of what she was doing.” Bell also pointed out that Winner was a first-time offender who had wanted to serve her country.
Winner herself apologized and said she took “full responsibility” for her actions. But prosecutors pushed for a longer sentence and argued that Winner was motivated by her anti-American beliefs. From the NY Times:
Prosecutors said in court filings that she was a savvy and well-trained analyst whose political beliefs drove her to violate security restrictions. They said that in the months before she leaked the report, Ms. Winner had downloaded software that would help her hide her web searches and communications; had expressed support for Edward J. Snowden, the N.S.A. contractor who leaked a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2013 and then took refuge in Russia; and had “repeatedly expressed contempt for the United States.”
“It’s literally the worst thing to happen on the planet,” she said of the United States in a Facebook chat with her sister in February 2016, according to prosecutors. “We invented capitalism, the downfall of the environment.”
Winner was also specifically outraged by the election of Donald Trump:
Ms. Winner’s apparent Twitter feed, which used a pseudonym but had a photo of her and the same account name as her Instagram feed, makes clear her hostility toward Mr. Trump. That suggests a possible motive for leaking: highlighting Russian hacking of election-related targets, amplifying the narrative that Mr. Trump’s victory is tainted.
On social media — her Twitter feed went silent soon after she became an N.S.A. contractor in February — she denounced Mr. Trump as “the orange fascist we let into the white house” and mocked Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a “Confederate.” She expressed concern about climate change, and support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other liberal views.
But Winner’s leak wasn’t too clever. She printed a copy of the report at work and then smuggled it out of the building in her pantyhose. When the Intercept asked the government to authenticate the document, investigators noticed a crease and concluded the site had received a hard copy. They identified six people who had printed the document but only one, Reality Winner, had been in contact with the Intercept over her work email address. Winner was caught before the document was even published by the Intercept.
Winner’s sentence is the longest ever handed out for a leak to the media. Naturally, given her views, she has fans:
Reality Winner has been sentenced to 5 years for leaking confidential information to the media.
Reality Show President is still in the White House and leaking information to Russians, Fox News and members of Mar-a-Lago. https://t.co/x4O8Gar2zK
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) August 23, 2018