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Contractor Gets 5 Years for Leak About Russian Election Hacks

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 24, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Reality Winner is a real person, but she is also something between a hero and a criminal.

She has been sentenced to more than five years for leaking to the media a top-secret report about Russians hacking election officials. That makes her a criminal.

On the other hand, she leaked a top-secret report about Russian hackers targeting election officials. So, yeah.

"Make No Mistake"

Winner, 26, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to transmitting national security information. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said Winner knew she disclosed information that "could be valuable to our adversaries and damaging to the United States.'

"Make no mistake," Christine said. "THIS WAS NOT A VICTIMLESS CRIME."

The all-caps statement added insult to injury, at least in terms of sentencing. Winner's sentence was the harshest ever for an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to the media.

That record should stand, too, at least until authorities catch Edward Snowden or Julian Assange. Not all leakers are created equal, but still -- the worst?

The 2016 Election

Winner was called a "dedicated public servant" before her arrest last year. An Air Force veteran, she was working as an intelligence contractor when she leaked the Russian-hacking story days before the 2016 election.

"Reality was a dedicated public servant and veteran who made a poor decision on this one occasion, and she has taken full responsibility for that unfortunate decision," her lawyers said.

As prosecutors sort out more cases involving Russians hacking the election, history will tell whether Winner's decision was the worst.

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