Law & the Courts

Ex-NSA Contractor Sentenced to Over Five Years for Leaking Classified Information

Reality Winner, the U.S. intelligence contractor charged with leaking classified National Security Agency material, is seen in these undated booking photos in Lincolnton, Ga.. (Lincoln County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office via Reuters)

Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, was sentenced to more than five years in prison on Thursday for leaking classified government documents to the media.

Winner, 26, admitted to removing the classified documents from a government facility during her sentencing hearing in a Georgia courtroom Wednesday morning.

The former contractor and Air Force veteran was initially facing ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but accepted a plea deal in June of 63 months in prison and three years of supervised release, the harshest sentence ever imposed for leaking classified information to the media.

Following a six-year stint in the Air Force, where she worked as a language analyst, Winner was employed by Pluribus International Corporation at a federal facility in Georgia. In May 2017, she used her top-secret security clearance to access classified documents, printed them out, and mailed them to an unnamed media outlet, according to the Department of Justice.

While the court did not disclose which media outlet Winner corresponded with, her arrest coincided with a report published in the Intercept revealing that Russian hackers had attempted to access the email accounts of more than 100 local election officials across the U.S in the fall of 2016. The report further alleged that the hackers targeted at least one U.S. voting-software supplier.

Winner’s social-media accounts are replete with passionate political messaging, much of which disparages President Trump and advocates for various environmental causes.

“Repeat after me: In the United States of America, in the year 2017, access to clean, fresh water is not a right, but a privilege based off of one’s socio-economic status,” she wrote in a Facebook post shortly before her arrest.

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