Convicted Leaker Insists 'I Am Not a Traitor'

Reality Winner released US report on Russian election interference
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2022 6:14 PM CDT
'I Am Not a Traitor,' Reality Winner Insists
Reality Winner walks into the Federal Courthouse in Augusta, Ga., in 2018.   (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP, File)

(Newser) – A former intelligence contractor convicted of espionage has explained her thought process in leaking classified documents. "I am not a traitor. I am not a spy," Reality Winner told CBS' 60 Minutes in an interview that aired Sunday. Winner, a contractor for the National Security Agency, was arrested in 2017, accused of emailing a secret document to the Intercept, a media outlet. The document was a US report about Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections by hacking a voting software supplier, per Insider. "I knew it was secret," Winner said. "But I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people."

Then-President Donald Trump's efforts to raise doubts about US findings that Russia had meddled in the election prompted her to act, she said. "I just kept thinking, 'My God, somebody needs to step forward and put this right,'" Winner told 60 Minutes. She knew what was in the report and felt that Americans were "being lied to." She put the report, which was marked "Top Secret," under her clothes and walked out of the NSA office at Fort Gordon in Georgia. Winner was sentenced to more than five years in prison but freed early, in June 2021.

The release did not compromise intelligence sources or methods, she said, maintaining that although she admits breaking the law, her prosecution was political and retaliatory. Winner discussed the strain of being called a terrorist, and said she battled depression and thoughts of suicide. She had joined the Air Force to fight enemies that she was now accusing of working with, a "stain" that she said remains. Her lawyer hasn't given up on a correction to the record, saying, "A pardon for Reality is the right thing for the country." (Read more Reality Winner stories.)

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