Reality Winner, 26, is an Air Force veteran who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). While working at NSA, she encountered a classified report with proof that Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential elections by penetrating a voting software supplier in Florida. Furthermore, the document provided proof that the government knew about it and withheld the information from the public. Winner printed off the report and left work that day with it tucked in her pantyhose. As soon as she arrived home, she mailed the document to The Intercept, an online media agency, which released a report on the secret document. Afterward, The Intercept contacted NSA and provided a copy of the report that appeared to have been folded up. Furthermore, the United States Intelligence Agencies later confirmed Russian interference.
As a result of her crimes, Winner was found guilty on one account of espionage. Initially, she would have had to serve ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, she accepted a plea deal, and the federal judge sentenced her to serve 63 months in prison instead. Her sentencing stands as the most severe punishment for leaking confidential information to media sources. Furthermore, it is the first espionage trial since Donald Trump took the presidential office, and it serves as an example of the Trump Administration’s goal to diminish disloyalty through information leaks.
While her motive is not completely clear, Winner expressed extreme distaste for President Donald Trump via her social media. For example, after Trump won the election, she posted “Well. People suck. #ElectionNight.” She even went as far as calling him an “orange fascist” in other posts.
When confronted with proof that the Russians compromised the 2016 election, many people believe that she tried to act as a whistleblower to expose the extent of the government’s knowledge that they withheld from the public.
However, after the exposure, she was promptly arrested and tried as a would-be-terrorist with vindictive motives. Furthermore, her Facebook chat conversations with her sister support this hypothesis. In one such chat, Winner stated,
“Look I only say I hate America like three times a day.”
The Aftermath of the Trial
Despite her distaste for President Donald Trump, he posted multiple tweets expressing his discontent with her sentencing. In one such tweet, he said,
“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.”
Furthermore, others have expressed discontent with her sentencing because they viewed her actions as that of a concerned whistleblower rather than a terrorist. One such person is the editor-in-chief of The Intercept. In an interview, he referred to her as a “conscience-driven whistleblower.” Other people believe that her harsh sentencing was solely to send a message to other individuals to prevent disloyalty and information breaches.
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Resources: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/23/reality-winner-sentencing-russia-hacking-report-794330, https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/23/politics/reality-winner-nsa-leaker-sentenced/index.html, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/reality-winner-former-nsa-contractor-deeply-regrets-leaking-classified-documents/, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/us/reality-winner-nsa-leak-guilty-plea.html
Picture Resources: Featured Image: https://pixabay.com/en/classified-background-blog-business-2651347/, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:ODNI_Statement_on_Declassified_Intelligence_Community_Assessment_of_Russian_Activities_and_Intentions_in_Recent_U.S._Elections.pdf&page=7, https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8567813820/in/photolist-e47hxW-9hLwdw-9DHdpK-eULu15-QmEXh-9x78vr-9Ci12c-e47hqo-e41GhK-e41ELr-e47mDU-e47iLE-9Ci1xg-bBBKx7-e41Jw8-e47hZm-axn74W-czGa9m-ackdJf-9EKCYM-83635z-9EKBAB-6Vwm1r-6gFez8-dXmUcV-8GEQ4F-dtRGkf-8eBtBn-884SZB-9zBcAv-9CkvqS-kNFjPw-2uTddH-g25GLQ-dnMPJZ-5nrmkz-bC8uho-7WprrH-ecutQQ-xQMNR-c9CadJ-g1XPzf-5nrmkt-duASTf-iziX4o-87XohL-eMX37d-rpJw2x-MJQCVD-MK39tW,