Frequently Asked Questions about Reality Winner
Who is Reality Leigh Winner?
Reality Leigh Winner is a 25-year-old veteran who has dedicated her career to serving the United States. Prior to becoming a federal contractor, she served in the Air Force for 6 years, including as a language analyst — Winner speaks Pashto, Farsi, and Dari.
She was honored with the Air Force Commendation Medal, for members who have “distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service.” The award noted that she “provided over 1,900 hours of enemy intelligence exploitation and assisted in geolocating 120 enemy combatants.”
She has no criminal history. Her stepfather described her as “a patriot.” Her mother Billie Winner-Davis said, “She loves children. She loves animals … She’s not a threat to anyone.”
Outside of her work, she is a yoga instructor and dedicated social justice advocate who speaks out in defense of racial justice and human rights on social media.
Can I write to Reality Winner in jail?
Yes, we hope you do. Please write Reality at the Lincolnton County Jail at this address:
Reality L Winner
PO Box 970
Lincolnton GA 30817
Do not mail anything of value. Reality currently has plenty of stamps, envelopes, and funds in her jail commissary account (from which she purchases socks, toothpaste, etc.).
Is Reality Winner her real name?
Yes, “Reality Leigh Winner” is the name her parents gave her at birth.
How many years in prison is she facing?
If convicted, Reality Winner could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Additionally, she faces a $250,000 fine and three years probation.
What is Reality Winner charged with?
Winner is charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, 18 U.S.C. § 793(e). According to this section of law, someone with access who transmits classified documents can face severe punishments if “the possessor has reason to believe” that the documents “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
The Espionage Act, written over 100 years ago, was meant for spies and saboteurs, yet the US government has transformed a law in recent years in order to put leakers and whistleblowers in jail for giving information to journalists in order to inform the American public.
It’s impossible for a whistleblower charged under the Espionage Act to receive a fair trial, because they are denied an opportunity to explain why they shared documents and are prevented from ever discussing the harm—or lack thereof—suffered by the country as a result of the leaks. The importance of the documents to public discourse has been considered inadmissible in all cases brought in the modern era.
The vague language of the Espionage Act makes it ripe for abuse, making it a potential weapon against both whistleblowers as well as news outlets that publish leaked documents. Many civil liberties experts have questioned whether or not the Espionage Act would stand up to a First Amendment challenge.
What did she allegedly share with the media?
Reality Winner allegedly gave a classified document to The Intercept describing the attempted hacking of U.S. election infrastructure by the Russian government. According to The Intercept:
“Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept…The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document…”
The document was vital to the public’s understanding of Russia’s attempt to influence U.S. elections, and helped drive home the importance of strong security, public auditing, and accountability in our election systems. This document belonged in public view and should never have been classified.
Is Reality Winner free now?
No. Prosecutors have argued that Winner is a flight risk and opposed her leaving jail on bail, even though her family offered their home in Texas as a bond. That means Winner is forced to wait in prison, without the support of friends and family, for many months before her trial begins.
Winner has no prior criminal history and has no ongoing access to classified materials. Most likely, the government is hoping the difficulty of living in jail will push Winner to settle the case quickly, rather than mounting the strongest legal defense possible. They may also be hoping that life behind bars will demoralize Winner, making her feel hopeless and cut off from friends, family, and supporters.
When and where will the trial be?
Reality Winner’s trial is currently scheduled to begin October 15, 2018, in Augusta, Georgia. The trial could last a month, including jury selection. The trial was originally set for October 23, 2017.