NSA whistleblower Reality Winner released from prison

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Michael Holahan/AP</span>
Photograph: Michael Holahan/AP

Reality Winner, a former intelligence contractor convicted of leaking a report about Russian interference in the US election in 2016, has been released from prison.

Winner’s attorney, Alison Grinter Allen, made the announcement via Twitter, saying the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor had been released into a residential re-entry programme for good behavior.

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In a statement, Allen said: “We are relieved and hopeful. Her release is not the result of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned through exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”

Allen said Winner was still barred from making public statements, and she and her family had asked for privacy “during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration”.

Winner was sentenced to five years in 2018, after being convicted of leaking the report. Aged 26, she was the first person charged by the Trump administration under the Espionage Act over a document leak. She pleaded guilty as part of a deal.

Prosecutors said Winner, who was working for a defense contractor, Pluribus International Corporation, printed a classified document that showed how Russian military intelligence hacked at least one voting software supplier and attempted to breach more than 100 local election systems before polling day in 2016.

The document was the basis of a story published on a news site, the Intercept, about an hour before the Department of Justice announced Winner’s arrest in June 2017.

Winner said she took responsibility for “an undeniable mistake that I made”.

But the case brought to light the extent to which the Trump administration was prepared to go to chase down whistleblowers using the Espionage Act, a draconian measure passed in 1917, instead of less harsh laws crafted to penalise leakers.

In a statement after Winner was sentenced, the Intercept’s editor-in-chief, Betsy Reed, said: “Selective and politically motivated prosecutions of leakers and whistleblowers under the Espionage Act – which dramatically escalated under Barack Obama, opening the door for the Trump justice department’s abuses – are an attack on the first amendment that will one day be judged harshly by history.”

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