Reality Winner. Jailed in Trump era. The Intercept screwed up

Lee Heidhues 5.25.2023

Reality L. Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor was the first person prosecuted during the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information. She served three years in Federal prison.

Liz encouraged me to watch the segment on Reality Winner broadcast on Amanpour & Company this afternoon.

Until now I had no idea who this woman is and why she is the subject of so much media attention.

Reality Winner was sentenced to five years in Federal prison in 2018.

Reality Winner, now 30, lives in her childhood home on the edge of a cattle ranch less than 100 miles north of the Mexican border. She came here after she was released from prison in summer 2021, now living alongside her mom and step-dad and a collection of stray animals.

A feature film “Reality” on HBO is being released today.

Earlier a documentary film “United States vs. Reality Winner” received critical acclaim.

Now I know more about the harsh treatment meted out to Reality Winner by the Federal government. And the catastrophic effect it has had on her life.

Reality Winner on 60 Minutes – December 2021

Reality Winner was also subject of a 60 Minutes interview in 2021.

Reality Winner – From Air Force to prison

The online publication The Intercept released documents which led to her arrest, charging, conviction and imprisonment. This was not one of the finest moments for The Intercept. Which, in hindsight, it failed to protect its source, Ms. Winner.

Excerpted from Wikipedia –,not%20because%20of%20compassionate%20release.

The Intercept sent copies of the documents to the NSA on May 30, 2017 to confirm their veracity, and the NSA notified the FBI. According to Vice magazine, an FBI report said the documents “appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.” Through an internal audit, the NSA determined that Winner was one of six workers who had accessed the particular documents on its classified system, but only Winner’s computer had been in contact with The Intercept using a personal email account. On June 3, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Winner’s electronic devices, and she was arrested. Both journalists and security experts have suggested that The Intercept‘s handling of the reporting, which included publishing the documents unredacted and including the printer tracking dots, was used to identify Winner as the leaker. In October 2020, The Intercept‘s co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald wrote that Winner had sent her documents to The Intercept‘s New York newsroom with no request that any specific journalist work on them. He called her exposure a “deeply embarrassing newsroom failure” resulting from “speed and recklessness” for which he was publicly blamed “despite having no role in it.” He said editor-in-chief Betsy Reed “oversaw, edited and controlled that story.” An internal review conducted by The Intercept into its handling of the document provided by Winner found that its “practices fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves”.