Reality Winner walks out of the Augusta County Courthouse on June 8, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. The winner is a contractor in the intelligence industry accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents.
Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist who pleaded guilty in 2018 to leaking an intelligence report about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, was released from prison on Monday, according to her attorney.
“I am overjoyed to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison,” Alison Grinter Allen said on Twitter. “She remains in custody as part of the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful.”
According to the Bureau of Prisons website, Winner is currently incarcerated at a reentry facility in San Antonio. Her release date from the facility is November 23, 2021.
Winner, now 29, was 25 when she printed out a classified intelligence report at the National Security Agency facility in Georgia where she worked and gave it to journalists from the investigative news site The Intercept.
On June 5, 2017, a storey based on Winner’s leak was published with the headline: “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION.”
“Russian military intelligence carried out a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept,” wrote journalists Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, and Ry
In August 2018, Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in prison. Winner’s early release, according to Allen, was not the result of a “pardon or compassionate release process, but rather time earned from exemplary behaviour while incarcerated.”
Winner is still barred from making public statements or appearances, according to Allen. Allen stated that Winner and her family “have requested privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and rebuild the years lost.”
Winner’s case was an early example of President Donald Trump’s administration’s tough stance toward those accused of leaking confidential government information. At the time, prosecutors stated that Winner’s sentence would be the longest ever served by a federal defendant for leaking to the media.
The case also reflected poorly on The Intercept’s source protection methods. In 2017, Betsy Reed, the editor-in-chief, issued a statement admitting that “at several points in the editorial process, our practises fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves for minimising the risks of source exposure when handling anonymously provided materials.”
Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017, just two days before The Intercept published its storey based on the document she provided. Investigators said they tracked down Winner after discovering that whoever leaked the classified document had printed it out. Winner was one of only a few dozen people who had printed the document, and she had also emailed someone at The Intercept from her work computer.
Winner’s release comes as the Biden administration faces criticism for the aggressive tactics used by the Justice Department under Trump to identify the source of leaked materials. The Justice Department’s inspector general announced on Friday that the department will investigate the earlier seizure of electronic records belonging to journalists at major news outlets and Democratic members of Congress as part of leak investigations.
According to reports, John Demers, a top Justice Department official in charge of the leak investigations, will leave the agency in two weeks. According to a Justice Department spokesperson, Demers’ departure was planned prior to the recent scandal.