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Whistleblower Reality Winner pleads guilty

Tentative agreement for 63 months in jail; sentencing hearing to come

Accused NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has changed her plea to guilty today in a hearing in Augusta, Georgia, in a tentative plea agreement carrying a sentence of 63 months, plus three years’ supervised release. Winner, a former Air Force translator, was arrested last year for disclosing a classified NSA report on attempted Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and has been incarcerated in a Georgia county jail ever since.

The plea agreement is still tentative: a sentencing investigation begins now, with a court hearing to come during which Reality may choose to make a statement and bring forth character witnesses to mitigate her sentence.

Reality was initially charged under the Espionage Act, which carries a ten year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. The Espionage Act bars defendants from explaining themselves in court, so had Reality taken her case to trial, she would not have been allowed to argue that she wanted to inform the American people, that she knew the leak wouldn’t cause any harm, and that the government shouldn’t needlessly hide this information from its citizens.

Courage Director Naomi Colvin said:

The Espionage Act is a draconian, World War I-era law that equates whistleblowing with treason, and journalism with spying. It is beyond question that Reality’s disclosure of attacks on the integrity of elections was in the public interest: the US media has discussed little else for the past two years.

That the Espionage Act has forced yet another conscientious public servant into guaranteed prison time should make clear the urgency for reform. Courage extends love and solidarity to Reality and her family, and we will stand by them until she is free.