Ex-U.S. intelligence analyst Reality Winner released from federal prison: attorney

·3 min read

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Reality Winner, the former U.S. intelligence analyst who in 2018 was sentenced to five years for espionage, was released from federal prison, her attorney said Monday in a tweet.

"I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison," lawyer Alison Grinter said on the social media platform at 10:16 a.m. CDT. "She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved at hopeful."

Grinter, who has represented Winner in her effort to win a reduced sentence and in other matters, said she was released based on "exemplary behavior while incarcerated."

Winner, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran, made national headlines in 2017, when she was accused of leaking national secrets to a news organization. She was working at the National Security Agency at the time and was accused of sharing a report about Russian hacking attempts that targeted U.S. voter registration information with the online news outlet, The Intercept.

Supporters have called her a whistleblower and long sought for her to be pardoned.

More: Ex-NSA contractor Reality Winner alleges sexual assault by guard in prison

In June 2018, Winner pleaded guilty to a single felony count of unauthorized transmission of national defense information and in two months later was sentenced to five years, three months in federal prison. Then-President Donald Trump, in a tweet, suggested the sentence was excessive.

Grinter said Winner's family members, who have been pushing for an early release for compassionate reasons, was at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth when the release took place. Winner and her family did not plan to make a public statement, Grinter said.

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In January, Grinter confirmed that Winner had made a formal complaint that a prison guard "touched her inappropriately while she was sleeping" the previous March. Grinter, in an interview with the USA TODAY Network on Monday said she was unaware of the status of the complaint.

"I don't know of any formal procedure," Grinter said, adding that she wrote a stern letter to prison officials warning that the guard should not be allowed to oversee Winner or others who had made similar allegations.

It is too early to tell what future plans Winner might have, Grinter said.

"There is a lot of emotion work to do when you get out of the trauma of incarceration," she said. "We haven't talked about anything that would stress her out, like long-term plans, but I would be really surprised if she didn't begin some kind of advocacy or activism work."

According to a 2017 profile by USA TODAY published after she was accused of leaking the top-secret material, Winner joined the Air Force shortly after graduating from high school. She speaks Pashto and Farsi and had served as a linguist.

After leaving the military, Winner went to work for a defense-contracting firm in Georgia.

More: Accused NSA leaker called America 'the worst thing to happen on the planet'

In court papers released after her arrest, Winner told federal agents she removed the classified material from her office "folded in half in my pantyhose." The documents also included social media exchanges she had with her sister, in which Winter said America was "literally the worst thing to happen on the planet. We invented capitalism the downfall of the environment.”

In her conversation with the agents about what she did, Winter told them, “Yeah, I screwed up royally."

Because she pleaded guilty, Winner cannot appeal her conviction. But Grinter said the effort to clear Winter's name will continue.

"We are going to continue to fight for a full pardon, which is, really, as far as I am concerned, the only thing that will do," Grinter said.

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Reality Winner, ex-U.S. intelligence analyst, released from prison

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