Former NSA contractor Reality Winner sentenced to 5+ years in prison for leaking secret report on Russian election hacking to The Intercept

Former Air Force language specialist and intelligence contractor Reality Winner has been sentenced to 63 months in prison.

In June, she pleaded guilty to leaking a top-secret government report that detailed Russia's hacking of our 2016 presidential elections to the news organization The Intercept.

Reality Winner was sentenced Thursday to five years and three months in federal prison. This makes the 26-year-old the only person doing time for anything related to Russia's attacks on American elections. And she's the person who tried to warn us.

She was charged and convicted under the Espionage Act, the same arcane code under which Chelsea Manning was previously convicted for leaking classified government material to Wikileaks.

The judge in Reality Winner's case imposed the sentence recommended by prosecutors. They wanted her to spend 10 years in prison, but opted for a shorter term to avoid discussing classified material during the court proceedings.

From the New York Times:

Ms. Winner, 26, received the longest sentence ever imposed for an unauthorized release of government information to the media. She is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office.

She was arrested in June 2017 and was held for more than a year while prosecutors built their case. She pleaded guilty in June 2018 to one felony count of unauthorized transmission of national defense information, for giving a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to a news outlet.

She was fresh out of the Air Force and just a few months into a job as a translator for the National Security Agency in May 2017 when prosecutors say she printed a report from her work computer that detailed hacking attacks by a Russian intelligence service against local election officials and voter registration databases. She later told investigators that she had smuggled the report out of the offices of the contractor, Pluribus International in Augusta, Ga., in her pantyhose, and mailed it to the online news outlet The Intercept.

Following a trail of clues, the F.B.I. soon arrested Ms. Winner, but not before the Intercept published the classified report.

Federal guidelines allowed for a sentence of up to 10 years, but prosecutors agreed in June to a sentence of 63 months, to avoid a trial that would require discussing classified reports and intelligence gathering techniques in open court. Prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum filed this week that such a trial “would compound the exceptionally grave harm to national security already caused by the defendant.”

Reality Winner in happier times, via her Facebook page.

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