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Reality Winner says she is not a traitor

2 min read

Former intelligence specialist Reality Winner insisted she is “not a traitor,” but rather, a patriot who felt Americans needed to know about Russia’s efforts to put Donald Trump in the White House.

The 30-year-old Texas native appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday to speak about her 2017 decision to release confidential information proving that, despite Trump’s claims “it could have been China” or “a lot of different groups” that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the National Security Agency knew it was Russia.

Winner, a decorated Air Force veteran, came across that information while working for a military contractor at Georgia’s Fort Gordon Army base.

“I just kept thinking, ‘My God, somebody needs to step forward and put this right,’” she recalled.

Deciding she would be that person, Winner printed up the top secret evidence she’d uncovered and sent it to news site The Intercept. Soon after it published, federal agents were at her door.

“I knew it was secret, but I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people,” she said. “And at that point in time, it felt like they were being led astray.”

Prosecutors claimed Winner caused “grave damage” to national security. However, “60 Minutes” reported a pair of former officials said the information she exposed helped the Federal Election Assistance Commission secure the 2018 midterm election.

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Convicted under the Espionage Act, Winner spent four years in prison before being released in June 2021.

Winner said she paid a heavy price for her actions. While incarcerated, she grappled with drug use, an eating disorder and depression. That prison time coincided with the COVID pandemic and social unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota by police.

She’s now happy to be back in Texas with her family, where she remains on home confinement. Winner is hard pressed to say whether or not the end justified the means.

“I try so hard not to frame things as being worth it or not worth it,” she said.

Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, said she’s proud of her daughter for letting Americans know the White House had evidence it was Russia — not China or someone else — that interfered in a U.S. election.

“What Reality did was not espionage,” Winner-Davis told “60 Minutes. “What Reality did was patriotism.”

Winner is hoping for a pardon from President Biden.