Actuality Winner, who leaked Russia intel to The Intercept, launched from jail

Reality Winner exits the Augusta Courthouse June 8, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Winner is an intelligence industry contractor accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents.

Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist who pleaded guilty in 2018 to leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 election, has been released from prison, her attorney said Monday.

“I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison,” Alison Grinter Allen wrote in a post on Twitter. “She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful.”

A Bureau of Prisons website says that Winner is currently located at a reentry facility in San Antonio. Her release date from the facility is listed as Nov. 23, 2021.

Winner, now 29, was 25 at the time that she printed out a classified intelligence report at the National Security Agency facility in Georgia where she worked and provided it to journalists at the investigative news outlet The Intercept.

A story based on Winner’s leak was published on June 5, 2017, with the headline: “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION.”

“Russian military intelligence executed 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,” said the article, written by journalists Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle and Ryan Grim.

Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in August 2018. According to Allen, Winner’s early release was not the product of a “pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”

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Allen added that Winner remains barred from making public statements or appearances. Winner and her family, Allen said, “have asked for privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost.”

Winner’s case was an early example of the tough approach that President Donald Trump’s administration took toward those accused of leaking confidential government information. Prosecutors said at the time that Winner’s sentence would mark the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for leaking to the media.

The case also reflected poorly on the source protection methods used by The Intercept. In 2017, editor-in-chief Betsy Reed issued a statement acknowledging that “at several points in the editorial process, our practices fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves for minimizing the risks of source exposure when handling anonymously provided materials.”

Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published its article based on the document she provided. Investigators said they tracked Winner down after determining that whoever had leaked the classified document had printed it out. Winner was one of just half a dozen people who had printed the document, and she had also used her work computer to email someone at The Intercept.

Winner’s release comes as the Biden administration is under pressure over aggressive maneuvers used by the Justice Department under Trump to uncover the source of leaked materials. On Friday, the Justice Department’s inspector general said it will look into the department’s earlier seizure of electronic records belonging to journalists at major news outlets and Democratic members of Congress as part of leak investigations.

It was reported Monday that John Demers, a top Justice Department official who oversaw those leak investigations, will depart the agency in two weeks. A Justice Department spokesperson said Demers’ departure was planned before the recent scandal.

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