Former NSA contractor Reality Winner sentenced to 5 years behind bars

A former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor accused of leaking classified documents to a media outlet in 2017 was sentenced to five years imprisonment on Thursday.

The 63-month sentence handed down to Reality Winner is the longest sentence in history for leaking sensitive documents to the public.

Under a plea deal negotiated, Winner, who admitted to one count of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 in June, will serve slightly over five years in jail.  She had faced up to ten years.

“I sincerely apologize and take full responsibility for my actions.  In particular, I want to apologize to my family,” Winner told the court during the sentencing hearing.

The judge presiding over the case, Judge J. Randal Hall, told the court Winner’s sentence would serve as a “deterrent”

Winner admitted the theft of the document and acknowledged handing it off for publication to The Intercept, an online investigative media group.  The Intercept published the document in a story in June 2017.

A former U.S. Air Force linguist, Winner was arrested in June 2017 for copying a classified report detailing an an alleged Russian attempt to hack the computer system of a Florida firm which develops voter software.

The report also outlined an alleged spear-phishing campaign conducted by Russian intelligence services against Florida election officials just ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

At the time of her theft, Winner, who held top secret security clearance, was employed with the NSA, contracting with Pluribus International Corporation at Fort Gordon in Georgia.  An Alexandria, Va.-based security firm, Pluribus provides analytical and engineering services to the federal government.

Winner is scheduled to serve her sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Texas, where she will be treated for bulimia and depression.


[AP via South China Morning Post] [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] [Photo courtesy AP via Los Angeles Times]