Secret Report Leaker gets Five Years

Monday, August 27, 2018 @ 06:08 PM gHale

It is five years in prison for an ex-government contractor who pleaded guilty to mailing a classified U.S. report to a news organization.

Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national security information.

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The former Air Force translator worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency’s office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it tucked into her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

The sentencing was part of a deal with prosecutors, who called it the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the news media.

Wearing an orange jail uniform and shackles in court Thursday, Winner said she took responsibility for “an undeniable mistake that I made.”

“I would like to apologize profusely for my actions,” she told the judge. “… My actions were a cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me. I had no intention to harm national security.”

Authorities never identified the news organization. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s June 2017 arrest the same day The Intercept reported on a secret NSA document. It detailed Russian government efforts to penetrate a Florida-based supplier of voting software and the accounts of election officials ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner had leaked.

U.S. intelligence agencies later confirmed Russian meddling.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall was in line with a plea agreement between Winner’s defense team and prosecutors, who recommended she serve five years and three months behind bars.

U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine told reporters Winner’s punishment is the longest sentence ever given for a federal crime involving a leak of secret information to the news media. Winner will get credit for having spent more than a year in jail already, he said.

“She was the quintessential example of an insider threat,” said Christine, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Georgia.

Winner confessed to leaking the classified report when FBI agents questioned her at her home in June 2017. Winner said she was frustrated at work and had filed complaints “about them having Fox News on.”

Prosecutors later made the 77-page transcript of Winner’s FBI interview part of the court file in her case. Any details about the document she leaked and the organization she mailed it to were redacted. But the rest of her confession to FBI agents became public.

“Yeah, I screwed up royally,” Winner told the agents before she was arrested.

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