A former intelligence contractor who leaked information about Russian will serve more than five years in prison for passing along a National Security Agency report in 2017.
The 63-month sentence handed down Thursday in an Augusta, Georgia courtroom, is the longest ever given anyone for disclosing government information, according to Titus Nichols, the lawyer for Reality Winner, Reuters reported.
“The sentence and accompanying plea agreement both reflect that Reality recognizes that actions have consequences, and that she has learned from her mistake and is prepared to accept the consequences of her actions,” Winner’s attorneys said in a statement.
Winner had been indicted on one count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information, a felony under the Espionage and Censorship Act. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison.
Winner, who was employed by Pluribus International Corp, a company that provides services to America’s defense and intelligence agencies, leaked an NSA report to The Intercept.
Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Intercept, said in a statement that Winner should be praised.
“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistleblower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department under the Espionage Act,” Reed said.
Prosecutors were adamant that Winner deserved what she got.
“Make no mistake: This was not a victimless crime,” U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said in a statement.
“Winner’s purposeful violation put our nation’s security at risk,” he added, The New York Times reported. He said the report she leaked revealed sources and methods of intelligence gathering, and its disclosure “caused exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security.”
Winner “knowingly and intentionally betrayed the trust of her colleagues and her country,” and was “the quintessential example of an insider threat,” he said.
Winner’s sentence made news when President Donald Trump and other compared it to the lack of action against leaks taking place in Washington.
Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over “classified” information. Gee, this is “small potatoes” compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
NSA contractor Reality Winner's mother asks @realDonaldTrump to pardon her daughter (sentenced to 5 years) after his comments today denouncing the sentence as "so unfair" and a "double standard", contrasting it to Hillary Clinton's repeated spreading of classified information. https://t.co/WLAqASPj8O
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 24, 2018
This woman gets 5 YEARS for leaking classified material to media. James Comey did the same thing in leaking classified material to a friend in HOPE that it gets leaked to the media. He's not even being investigated. HERE'S something Mueller can investigatehttps://t.co/gJTFfuKLkn
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) August 24, 2018
Winner’s attorneys said no malice was intended.
“She’s a good person … who didn’t understand the magnitude of what she was doing,” attorney John Bell said Thursday, according to CNN.
Bell also pointed out that Winner was a first-time offender who had wanted to serve her country.
In court on Thursday, Winner said she took “full responsibility” for the “undeniable mistake I made.” She said she “would like to apologize profusely” for her actions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“I had no intention to harm national security,” Winner also said.
The sentence includes time served since her arrest, because Winner had been held in jail since June 2017, after prosecutors said they found “disturbing” comments in her notebook. In one section Winner wrote: “I want to burn the White House down,” prosecutors said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.