In the whole “Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election” fiasco, one person named Reality Winner (no kidding, that is the woman’s name) got caught up in the web and has now accepted a plea deal of one count of espionage.
In a federal courthouse in Augusta today, former intelligence contractor Reality Winner accepted a plea agreement for a single charge of espionage, in exchange for a sentence of 63 months in prison and three years of supervised release. The plea agreement is still tentative, pending a pre-sentencing investigation ordered by the court. Winner has already spent over a year in prison, and would be due for release in 2023.
Winner was arrested in June 2017, just days after The Intercept published a secret NSA report on Russian efforts to hack the 2016 election. Winner served in the Air Force for six years, and was working as an intelligence contractor at the time of her arrest. She held a top secret clearance….
According to the defense, Winner’s plea decision was heavily influenced by the nature of the Espionage Act, which considers only the willful nature of the disclosure and its impact on national security. No defense can be made for disclosures in the public interest, so any testimony would have been dismissed by the court as irrelevant. The same restriction has been cited by Edward Snowden’s supporters as a concern for any potential trial.
“The cards were stacked again at her and she couldn’t defend herself against the Espionage charge,” Winner’s mother said in a statement. “We need to work toward reforming laws so that the Espionage Act is not leveraged against our citizens.”
Somehow Winner is caught up in the web of Russian hacking that is the strongest (only) evidence of any kind of Russian interference in the 2016 election. To date, the winner of the race, Donald J. Trump, has said repeatedly that there was no interference.
Hopefully, the full truth of this case will come out at some point and Winner’s conviction can be re-evaluated.