NSA leaker Reality Winner sentenced to 5 years in prison

Prosecutors said the 63-month sentence was the longest ever for leaking classified info to media.

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Stringer . / Reuters
Stringer . / Reuters

Reality Winner, the whistleblower who leaked NSA election hacking data, pled guilty back in June to a single count of transmitting national defense information. Today, she was sentenced to 63 months in prison, which prosecutors called the longest sentence imposed for a federal crime related to unauthorized disclosure of classified info to the media.

Winner, a former Air Force translator, had been working as a contractor at an NSA office in Georgia when she printed a classified report, smuggled it out of the building, and mailed it to a certain online media outlet that hasn't outright been identified. However, the Justice Department announced her arrest in June 2017 on the same day that The Intercept's story, about an NSA report detailing Russian hacking efforts just before the 2016 election, went live.

The Intercept maintains that it didn't know the source of the information it acquired, and later acknowledged that its mishandling of said info in its published story may have clued the DOJ in to Winner. In a statement responding to her sentencing today, the online publication claimed the information provided for the story 'played a crucial role' in alerting local election officials unaware of the cyberattack, and defended Winner's role.

"The vulnerability of the American electoral system is a national topic of immense gravity, but it took Winner's act of bravery to bring key details of an attempt to compromise the democratic process in 2016 to public attention," The Intercept's Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed wrote. "Those same details were included in the July indictment of alleged Russian military intelligence operatives issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller."

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