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Accused NSA leaker "scared that they would make her disappear," mom says

Family of alleged NSA leaker speak
Family calls alleged NSA leaker "a patriot" 03:17

The mother and stepfather of 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, the NSA contractor accused of leaking government secrets, are speaking out about their daughter. The Air Force veteran has been in federal custody since Saturday and faces up to 10 years in prison for allegedly passing a classified document to a news outlet.

Winner's family says she's not a traitor.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25 Handout

"I know that she's scared. She is scared that they won't let her out," mother Billie-Jean Davis said.

Winner is now the defendant in the Trump administration's first criminal leak case, reports CBS News correspondent David Begnaud. Winner will be inside the federal courthouse in Augusta, Georgia, Thursday for her second appearance before a federal judge on espionage charges.

Winner's mother and stepfather drove more than 1,100 miles from her native Texas to Georgia to lend their support.

"Her words to me were that she was really scared that they would make her disappear," Davis said. 

Mother Billie-Jean Davis and step-father Gary Davis CBS News

The Department of Justice says Winner admitted to taking a "top secret" intelligence document, dated May 5, which details hacking by the Russian military intelligence. The government claims that when Winner "retained and transmitted classified national defense information," she could have compromised the security of the United States.

"I'm terrified. I'm terrified that she's not going to be treated fairly and that they're going to try to make an example of her and that's not fair. Sorry," Davis said, crying.

Winner was active on social media up to the day of her arrest. Tweeting under the pseudonym "Sara Winners," she expressed disappointment with the election results and her disdain for President Trump. She used the hashtag #notmypresident several times.

Winner's court-appointed attorney Titus Nichols said she plans to enter a not guilty plea Thursday. He says he is going to try to get her released ahead of trial.

"We have the burden of showing that my client is not a risk of committing new offenses, that she's not a risk of fleeing," Nichols said.

As a contractor at an NSA facility in Augusta, Winner is among the 1.3 million people who have "top secret" security clearances. She served six years with the U.S. Air Force and received a commendation medal.

"She's a patriot," stepfather Gary Davis said. He said the charges she's facing are an insult to her and her service.

"She served her nation with distinguished honor.  And that's who Reality Winner is. It's not the person that's being portrayed. She is a winner," Gary said. "She's, she's our winner. So..."

"She's my winner," Davis said.

The FBI affidavit says a visible crease mark on the document passed to The Intercept tipped them off that the file was printed from a secure server. Computer security experts say there's also a visible trail on everything printed nowadays, that color printers leave microdots. Those dots identify the printer's serial number and can reveal the date and time it was printed.

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