Reality Winner says she leaked classified material to serve American people
Reality Winner, a former NSA contractor, tells Scott Pelley she leaked classified documents to the media to honor her pledge of service to the American people. Winner, who also served six years in the U.S. Air Force, spoke to Scott Pelley in her first television interview since being released from prison. She spent more than four years behind bars, the longest sentence ever served by a civilian accused of leaking information to the media.
Winner was arrested in June 2017 after sending a top-secret National Security Agency report about Russian government hacking of the 2016 election to a news organization.
She was the first leaker charged by the Trump administration's Justice Department which used the Espionage Act to prosecute her. Winner pleaded guilty in 2018 and just recently completed her sentence. Under the terms of her plea agreement, she's still not allowed to talk about the document she leaked or any of the top secret work she did while in the Air Force and as an NSA contractor. During Winner's stint in the Air Force, she was awarded a commendation medal for "600 enemies killed in action."
In the 60 Minutes interview, Winner also tells Pelley that she felt the American people were being misled and that despite the espionage charge against her, she is neither a spy nor a traitor; that she only "acted out of love for what this country stands for."
"You knew it was stamped 'Top Secret.' You knew what that meant," Pelley says to Winner in an excerpt from the report that aired on "CBS Mornings."
"I knew that. I knew it was secret," Winner responds, "But I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people. And at that point in time, it felt like they were being led astray."
While the Justice Department was charging Winner with espionage, the 60 Minutes report reveals that another part of the federal government was using the information Winner leaked to alert state and local election officials about potential hacking of their own systems.
Winner also reveals to Pelley details of how her jail and prison time led to emotional and physical damage.
Billie Winner-Davis, her mother, also appears in the segment and says she is proud of her daughter: "She actually stood up and worked for the American people to give us the truth about an attack on our vote, an attack on our democracy, an attack on our country."
The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.
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