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Air Force Vet Turned NSA Leaker Reality Winner Receives Record-Setting Prison Sentence
Reality Winner on Thursday received a record-setting prison sentence — five years and three months behind bars — for leaking a top-secret government report about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“I sincerely apologize and take full responsibility for my actions,” the former National Security Agency contractor told Chief U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall in a federal court in Augusta. “In particular, I want to apologize to my family.”
Bobby Christine, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, told reporters after the sentencing hearing that Winner “knowingly and intentionally betrayed the trust of her colleagues and her country.”
“Make no mistake, this was not a victimless crime,” he said. “Winner’s purposeful violation put our nation’s security at risk, not in a speculative way or hypothetical way but in a very real way, a very direct way.”
The judge said Winner’s sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense and is meant to serve as a deterrent.
Winner, 26, faced up to 10 years in prison for her crime. But her plea deal with prosecutors called for her to serve five years and three months behind bars. That is longer than anyone else has been sentenced for an “unauthorized disclosure to the media,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing this month. Both Winner’s attorneys and the prosecutors urged Hall to agree to the sentence spelled out in her plea deal.
“The government advises the court that despite the agreed-upon sentence being below the applicable guidelines range, it would be the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for an unauthorized disclosure to the media,” the prosecutors said in their court filing.
The prosecutors added avoiding a trial would prevent them from having to reveal sensitive government information in court.
The former government contractor is accused of leaking classified intelligence.
“The agreement reflects a fair resolution of the defendant’s criminal culpability, especially when balanced against the further harm to the national security that would likely result from a trial,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also cited several other similar federal cases in which defendants received shorter prison sentences. In 2013, former FBI bomb technician Donald Sachtleben was sentenced to 43 months in prison for leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen. That same year, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was given a 30-month sentence for revealing to a freelance journalist the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Two years later, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling got a 42-month sentence for leaking to The New York Times classified information about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Winner, the prosecutors said, mailed a copy of an NSA document to The Intercept, an online publication. The Intercept published an article based on the report, saying Russian military intelligence sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials and launched a cyberattack against a Florida-based voting software supplier that contracts in eight states.
Christine, the federal prosecutor, said the government had determined Winner’s actions “caused exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. That harm included but was not limited to impairing the ability of the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information similar to the information disclosed.”
Winner asked that she be detained at the Federal Medical Center Carswell near Fort Worth, Texas, saying that would place her nearer to her family in Kingsville, Texas, and allow her to get help with her bulimia, an eating disorder. Joel Sickler, a criminologist working with Winner’s attorneys, noted in court papers that Winner is a U.S. Air Force veteran with no other criminal convictions. She has already spent more than a year behind bars at the Lincoln County Jail outside of Augusta.
“In my opinion,” Sickler wrote, “it would be extremely helpful for Ms. Winner if she were designated to a facility close to her family in Texas, as it would assist with her adjustment to the conditions of confinement, and later, it would be beneficial as she transitions to pre-release at a halfway house.”
The judge said Thursday he would recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Winner be held at Federal Medical Center Carswell.
©2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.