NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Released From Prison

Barbed wire in the foreground with a blurred American flag in the background

Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who blew the whistle and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, has been transferred from federal prison to a halfway house, according to a June 14 article from The Washington Post.

In January of 2017, Winner, who is also an Air Force veteran, began working at an NSA facility in Augusta, Georgia as an Interpreter Analyst, according to a previous Whistleblower of the Week article on WNN. “Around May 9, 2017, Winner printed out a classified intelligence report detailing an attempt by Russian intelligence to access American election infrastructure through a private software company,” the article states. Winner sent this document to news outlet The Intercept, which then published a story about Winner’s findings. However, as a result of the article’s publication, the NSA was able to identify Winner as the person who provided the classified document. Winner was interrogated in her home by the FBI in June of 2017 and was arrested shortly afterwards, according to WNN. The Intercept published an apology in July of 2017, with Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed stating: “I take responsibility for this failure, and for making sure that the internal newsroom issues that contributed to it are resolved.”

“On June 26, 2018, Reality Winner accepted a plea agreement for a single charge of espionage,” the WNN article states. Winner was charged under the Espionage Act and sentenced to a prison term of 63 months,spending part of her term at a prison in Fort Worth, Texas. In August 2020, Winner, along with 500 inmates, contracted coronavirus at the facility.

According to the Post, Winner will serve the remainder of her prison sentence at a halfway house. Her attorney Alison Grinter Allen said that this transfer is a “scheduled shift due to good behavior.” According to the article, Winner “is likely to have the option of home confinement” as she finishes her sentence. “She is in the custody of the halfway house, and the halfway house can use home confinement as part of it, but it’s all at the discretion of the halfway house,” Allen said. “She has begun the reentry process.”

A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said that “Winner is now subject to what officials call ‘community confinement,’ which can mean either staying at the halfway house or home confinement, while still officially in the custody of the agency.”

In an interview with The Dissenter, Winner’s mother Billie Winner-Davis discussed her daughter’s experience leading up to the transfer from the prison and then finally being able to see her in person. Winner-Davis states that her daughter was quarantined prior to her transfer and received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, Winner-Davis states that in regards to the meals served in the quarantine, “the facility did not tailor her meal to meet dietary considerations that were well known to staff. Because Reality had no commissary access, she would go hungry.”

Winner-Davis, who throughout her daughter’s imprisonment has been advocating for a pardon and compassionate release, stated: “I don’t feel like we were able to achieve this for her because she did all of her time. She earned this release. Nobody gave this to her. She earned it.”

Read the Post article here.

Read WNN’s previous Whistleblower of the Week profile here.

Read the article from The Dissenter here.

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