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NSA contractor and accused leaker pleads guilty under Espionage Act

Former NSA contractor Reality Winner pleaded guilty on Tuesday to sharing US Secrets to the press. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Former intelligence analyst and Air Force veteran Reality T. Winner pleaded guilty on Tuesday to leaking US secrets to the press, appearing in Federal District Court in Augusta, Ga.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Ms. Winner agreed to a sentence of 63 months in prison for sharing a classified report pertaining to Russian interference with America's 2016 election.

What happened?

Online news site The Intercept published a copy of the report on June 5 of last year, the same day as Winner's arrest. Prosecutors allege that Winner was the source of the leak, and say she had been "mad about some things she had seen in the media, and she wanted to set the facts right."

Winner, who has been jailed since her arrest last June, told Chief Judge J. Randal Hall, "All of my actions I did willfully, meaning I did so of my own free will." She was pursued by the Department of Justice under the Espionage Act.

Billie Winner-Davis, mother of the accused, said on Tuesday, "They're just coming down on her so tough. I can only think that it's because she was the very first one: the one they wanted to make an example out of, the one they wanted to nail to the door as a message to others."

But Ms. Winner-Davis also conceded that her daughter "wouldn't have made this decision if she wasn't ready to accept the consequences and to accept responsibility."

The former NSA contractor's mother further criticized the law under which her daughter was prosecuted, saying, "It's harsh, it's outdated, it needs to be reformed. I wanted to fight the Espionage Act. Reality Winner, I don't want her name to go down as being someone in history who betrayed or hurt her country."

Anything else?

Reality Winner was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2016, and subsequently took a position with NSA contractor Pluribus International at Fort Gordon in Georgia. The 26-year-old previously held a top-secret security clearance and speaks fluent Arabic and Farsi.

She will be sentenced by a judge at a later date.


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