Court filings make clear that Winner had wanted to make Americans aware that the government had concluded that Russia secretly tried to gain access to U.S. voting systems in 2016, contrary to what the Trump administration said in 2017. Winner was a contractor for the National Security Agency when she disclosed the document, which was published by The Intercept in June 2017. The NSA document described phishing attempts by Russian military intelligence against local U.S. election officials — and was the most convincing evidence to emerge of the Russian effort.
REALITY WINNER, the most prominent and harshly punished whistleblower of the Trump era, has been released to a halfway house after serving most of her five-year sentence for leaking a classified document on Russia’s effort to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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Winner was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, even though election officials in the U.S. indicated that it was her action, rather than warnings from their own government, that had made them aware they were targets of Russian hackers. While the Obama administration had used the draconian Espionage Act against a record number of leakers, none received a sentence as long as Winner’s, who pled guilty rather than face what could have been an even longer sentence if she had gone to trial.
The injustice of her case was highlighted when Marina Butina, a Russian national, received an 18-month sentence in 2018 for trying to influence American political figures without registering as a foreign agent. It struck many observers as dumbfounding that an actual Russian agent would receive a lighter jail sentence than an American trying to reveal a secret Russian effort to alter the outcome of an election. Winner was even denied compassionate release during the Covid-19 pandemic — and subsequently contracted the disease.
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