Reality Winner is the former intelligence specialist and decorated military veteran (US Air Force) who at the age of 25 became a whistleblower, exposing Russian hacking in the 2016 election. This was the first time this vulnerability “had been brought to the attention of many Americans, including state and local election officials.” She was jailed with the longest “sentence ever imposed in federal court for an unauthorized release of government information to the media.” Winner continues to suffer in jail while Trump pardons innumerable friends, political cronies and politically connected defendants. But calls for Biden to pardon her are increasing.
“In the last year of her harsh sentence, the NSA whistleblower’s bid for clemency is gaining backers,” The Intercept wrote on Dec. 30 in “Reality Winner Endures Holiday Hardships As Advocates Turn To Biden For Repreive.” Note that the Intercept didn’t protect her as a source in the first place.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, former deputy assistant secretary of defense and former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, J. William Leonard, encourages President Joe Biden to pardon #RealityWinner as one of his first acts. See “Why Joe Biden should pardon Reality Winner,” 12/21/20. Leonard had “appeared as a pro bono expert witness for Winner’s defense because [he] believed her prosecution constituted overreach by the government.”
The Intercept includes the painful irony of Winner’s suffering worse this holiday season as Trump pardons his family, wealthy political cronies and politically connected defendants. They wrote,
“As Winner endured especially poignant daily hardships, along with the hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned across America’s vast carceral state, Trump issued a flurry of pardons to his wealthy cronies and politically connected defendants. Some of the beneficiaries included former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was convicted of tax and bank fraud; the father-in-law of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Charles Kushner, who served prison time for tax evasion and attempting to blackmail his own brother-in-law, a federal witness; and former Blackwater contractors imprisoned for massacring Iraqi civilians.”
Winner was arrested in June 2017 and was held for more than a year while prosecutors built a case. She pleaded guilty in June 2018 to one felony count of unauthorized transmission of national defense information, for giving a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to a news outlet (The Intercept). She was sentenced on August 23, 2018, to five years and three months in prison.
Meanwhile, in April 2018, former FBI director James Comey’s 7 leaked memos were made public and clearly state that the FBI knew about the Russian interference in the 2017 election. It is documented in the memos that Trump and Comey agreed on the need to send a message to ‘leakers’. Comey actually wrote “the value of putting a head on a pike as a message” in one memo.
I have been following her case thanks to the continued focus of my friend, Jacalyn Engler, who also wrote a play about Winner. Reality’s mother has been a constant supporter of her daughter, always posting about the case and inequities. So many reasons to free her. Meanwhile Trump is pardoning a slew of people who belong in prison, the NY Times provides a list of 41 people by December 23. Trump did not pardon Winner, who did us all a favor.
She needs to be released, and our pressure would help. Talk about her, read about her, post about her, write about her. #FreeRealityWinnerNOW!