NSA whistleblower Reality Winner released from federal prison after nearly five years

Fort Worth, Texas – Whistleblower Reality Winner has been transferred to a halfway house after serving most of her five-year sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Reality Winner (29) has served five years in prison for serving as a journalistic source.
Reality Winner (29) has served five years in prison for serving as a journalistic source.  © Screenshot/Instagram/reezlie

The 29-year-old whistleblower was convicted in 2018 of "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet" after she shared a classified document on Russia's attempted interference in the 2016 election with The Intercept.

The document provided evidence that Russian intelligence was trying to hack at least one electronic voting software provider and phish over 100 local election officials across the US.

Winner was just 25 and working as a subcontractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) when she came across the top-secret information.

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The Air Force vet was prosecuted under the Espionage Act. She pleaded guilty, fearing her sentence would be even longer than five years should she go to trial.

Release not the result of a pardon

A protester holding a sign calling for the release of Reality Winner at Daley Plaza in Chicago in 2020.
A protester holding a sign calling for the release of Reality Winner at Daley Plaza in Chicago in 2020.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Though the number of Espionage Act prosecutions skyrocketed in the Obama years, Winner's sentence under the Trump administration was exceptionally long. Many people were shocked that an actual Russian agent, Marina Butina, received just 18 months in prison that same year.

When Biden took office, many hoped he would pardon Winner and release her from prison, but the new president did nothing. Winner was released on June 14 according to the regular schedule for good behavior.

The whistleblower's attorney Alison Grinter Allen said in a statement, "Reality and her family have asked for privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost. Her release is not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated."

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Winner, whose 63-month sentence for leaking classified information to the press was the longest in federal court history, remains formally imprisoned.

Cover photo: Screenshot/Instagram/reezlie

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