Reality Leigh Winner, of Augusta, Georgia has the unfortunate distinction of being the first leaker caught by the Trump Administration. With members like Jason Chaffetz saying “I want to see people in handcuffs,” the 25-year-old federal contract worker could be facing some serious jail time. In addition, she seems to fulfill the image advanced President Trump as a liberal, anti-Trump advocate within the system. What will be interesting is the sentence sought by the Administration after high-ranking officials have been given no criminal charges or misdemeanors for removing classified information and other related charges.
Winner is charged with gathering, transmitting or losing defense information that could have been damaging to the U.S. The indictment alleges that she took a top secret National Security Agency document, copied it and mailed it to a news organization. The organization is believed to be The Intercept. She did not make it particularly difficult for investigators.
Winner was an employee at Pluribus International Corporation, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia. The company supplies analytical and engineering services and Winner was working at its Georgia location.
Winner was an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force and worked as a linguist. She has an impressive background and can speak Pashto, Farsi and Dari.
Winner is active on social media and posted liberal and anti-Trump material under the name Sara Winners.
In February , Winner tweeted that rapper Kanye West that he should make a shirt declaring whiteness an act of terror: “@kanyewest you should make a shirt that says, ‘being white is terrorism.’” She also indicates that she is a Sanders supporter.
I do not believe that these comments should have disqualified her for such work. Rather the tweets will likely support the narrative advanced by Trump that he is being actively undermined by political opponents in federal agencies. However, one alleged tweet would raise security issues for someone with an active clearance:
Javad Zarif ✔ @JZarif
We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement. pic.twitter.com/xwGquvqLvb
Sara Winners @Reezlie
@JZarif There are many Americans protesting US govt aggression towards Iran. If our Tangerine in Chief declares war, we stand with you!
8:18 AM – 7 Feb 2017
231 231 Retweets 192 192 likes
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The FBI received the tip that led to her arrest from a news outlet. Intercept may have shown the document to a third party for verification. The investigators soon determined that Winner was one of six people who had access to the document in question on her computer since it was published internally. They then found an email contact with the news outlet on March 30 and then again March 31 from her personal GMail account.
The Intercept may face questions from whistleblowers and other groups over its protection of a source if it was the cause for this material to be revealed to the government.
She reportedly confessed.
The Espionage Act charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Usually such cases will result in sentences of one to three years. The Obama administration prosecuted nine or ten leak-related cases — twice the number of cases brought by all previous administrations.
Here is the affidavit in support of the indictment.