News World US intelligence leaker of Russian interference sentenced to five years jail

US intelligence leaker of Russian interference sentenced to five years jail

Reality Winner
Reality Winner, 26, was sentenced to five years jail for leaking information about Russian hacking in the 2016 US election. Photo: AAP
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A former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who admitted to giving classified information to the media about Russian interference in the US election has been sentenced to more than five years jail.

Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty in June last year to a single count of transmitting national security information.

She faced up to 10 years in prison but was reduced to 63 months under a plea deal.

Her sentence is understood to be the longest giving for passing confidential material to the press in the US.

The former Air Force translator worked as a linguist at a NSA office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and mailed the document to an online news outlet.

She was detained and charged under the US Espionage Act.

In court on Thursday, Winner apologised and said that what she did was wrong.

Authorities never identified the news organisation.

US media reported on a secret NSA document which detailed Russian government efforts to penetrate a Florida-based supplier of voting software and the accounts of election officials ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner had leaked.

US intelligence agencies later confirmed Russian meddling.

The judge’s sentence was in line with a plea agreement between Winner’s defence team and prosecutors, who recommended she serve five years and three months behind bars.

Winner spent a year in jail before reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. Her attorneys had argued for Winner to be released on bond, noting she had no criminal record and had served honourably in the military.

But the judge sided with prosecutors who said Winner posed a potential flight risk and may have stolen other classified documents.

Despite prosecutors’ warnings that Winner may have stolen other US secrets, she was never charged with any additional crimes.

Winner confessed to leaking the classified report when FBI agents questioned her at her home in June 2017. She said she was frustrated at work and had filed complaints “about them having Fox News on.”

Prosecutors later made the 77-page transcript of Winner’s FBI interview part of the court file in her case.

Any details about the document she leaked and the organisation she mailed it to were redacted. But the rest of her confession to FBI agents became public.

-with AAP