The Slatest

Reality Winner, the Contractor Who Leaked Classified Russian Election Meddling Info, Released From Prison

Reality Winner walks down stairs outside the courthouse wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffs
Reality Winner exits a courthouse in Augusta, Georgia, on June 8, 2017. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty to leaking a classified National Security Agency report, was released from a Texas prison, her lawyer announced Monday. Winner’s lawyer said the 29-year-old was transferred to a halfway house before being transitioned to supervised release. Winner initially faced a 10-year sentence for leaking to the Intercept in 2017 the classified document outlining Russian cyberattacks on local election officials and the company responsible for voter registration software. As part of a plea deal, in 2018 Winner was sentenced to just over five years, a sentence prosecutors said was the longest ever handed down for a government leak to a news outlet.

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Winner’s early release was scheduled and on account of good behavior, her lawyer said, not because of any commutation of her sentence. Winner petitioned then-President Donald Trump for clemency, but Trump did not intervene in her case, as he launched public screeds against government leaks and the Trump Department of Justice pursued journalists and sitting members of Congress in leak investigations. Winner is still restricted by law from discussing the specifics of her case and the document it was based on and had begun the process of petitioning for a pardon or commutation before her release.

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The former Air Force linguist was working for the private intelligence firm Pluribus International at Fort Gordon in Georgia when she leaked the top-secret document to the online publication. Winner printed out the NSA report, sneaking it out of the complex in her pantyhose, before mailing it to the Intercept, which then published a news story on the contents of the document. The Intercept, which made a name for itself publishing national security stories, often relying on sensitive leaked documents, faced criticism for the handling of the document, which led federal investigators directly to Winner, who was charged within an hour of the publication of the story.

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