August 23, 2018
Winner, who leaked report on Russian election interference, is first person Trump administration charged under Espionage Act
Reality Winner: NSA contractor jailed for five years over classified report leak
The NSA contractor Reality Winner was sentenced on Thursday to five years and three months in prison for leaking a top-secret document about Russian interference in the US election.
Winner, 26, was sentenced at a federal court in Georgia after pleading guilty in June as part of a deal with government prosecutors.
She is the first person the Trump administration has charged under the Espionage Act for a document leak.
Prosecutors said that in May 2017, Winner, who was working for the defense contractor Pluribus International Corporation, printed a classified document that showed how Russian military intelligence hacked at least one voting software supplier and had attempted to breach more than 100 local election systems in the days before the November 2016 vote.
That document was the basis of a story published on the news site the Intercept about one hour before the justice department announced Winner’s arrest in June 2017.
She has been jailed ever since and in June she pleaded guilty to one felony count of transmitting national security information, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The justice department did not pursue the maximum sentence and instead recommended a 63-month penalty. Government attorneys said that would be the longest sentence ever for an unauthorized disclosure to the media.
Winner’s attorneys challenged the lengthy recommended sentence in a court filing last week. “Despite her singular criminal act, as set forth below, the stipulated sentence of 63 months is in excess of many prior Espionage Act cases where the government has prosecuted ‘leakers’ of national defense information, including cases where the factual conduct, and information leaked, was arguably worse,” attorneys wrote.
Free speech advocates have warned that the Trump administration’s use of the Espionage Act – instead of less harsh laws that are crafted to penalize people for leaking government information – in Winner’s case perpetuates the aggressive attacks on whistleblowers seen under Barack Obama’s administration.
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