Winner, a former Air Force linguist, was arrested on June 3, 2017, and charged with gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information under the Espionage Act while working with a private company in contract with the NSA. She pleaded guilty in a Federal District Court in Georgia on June 26 to one count of unauthorized transmission of national defense information after leaking a classified report about Russian attempts to interfere with a voting machine company and election officials in the 2016 United States presidential election to The Intercept. Winner, who has already spent over one year in pre-trial confinement after being repeatedly denied bail, is the first person under the Trump administration to be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, legislation adopted during World War I to prosecute individuals who shared government secrets with enemies of the United States.
“Reality Winner’s outrageous sentence is a clear threat to investigative journalism, freedom of information, and the public’s right to know, as it could have a chilling effect on sources,” said Margaux Ewen, RSF’s North America bureau director. “We are concerned that her sentence is just the beginning of an intense crackdown on whistleblowers led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who threatened last year to stifle leaks with harsh federal punishment. Winner’s sentence shows that his threats are coming to fruition.”
The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this press release inaccurately stated Reality Winner was a pilot for the Air Force. The story has been updated.