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Ex-NSA leaker Reality Winner released from prison early for 'exemplary' behavior

Will be transferred to a halfway house, attorney continues to fight for presidential pardon

Reality Winner, the former NSA intelligence contractor who leaked evidence of Russian interference in a US Presidential election to the press, has been released from prison.

Her attorney Alison Allen announced Winner, 29, had been let out on Monday early due to "exemplary" behavior while inside.

In 2018, Winner pleaded guilty to one count of espionage for printing out a classified document describing the Kremlin’s attempts to infiltrate and meddle with voting systems amid the 2016 White house race. She sent the five-page report to The Intercept, which published a news article about the file's contents.

Winner was sentenced to 63 months behind bars. The near five-year sentence is the harshest punishment handed out by the courts in the United States for leaking classified information to the media.

Allen confirmed to The Register Winner is now being transferred to a halfway house in Texas: “Reality has begun the reentry process in south Texas and she’s working on all of the very emotional work of adjusting to life after prison. She became an aunt while she was in prison, and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to be tickling the tiny toes of her niece.”

When Winner printed the secret files, she was 25 and working at Pluribus International, a intelligence services company contracting with the federal government. The FBI was able to finger Winner as a potential source of the leak after a full copy of the document was sent by The Intercept to the NSA for verification as opposed to a summary of it.

That document had enough metadata on it – such as the document ID and title – to track down the half-dozen users who printed out the file, one of whom was Winner. She had also used one of her work computers to send an email from her personal Gmail to The Intercept asking for a transcript of a podcast.

The FBI quizzed Winner, and she confessed she had printed out and physically mailed the document to the media. In a mea culpa, The Intercept offered to pay her legal costs. The publication's cofounder Laura Poitras was subsequently fired for speaking to the press about the incredible blunder.

Last year, Winner's legal team filed a formal petition for commutation with the Department of Justice though the request went nowhere. Now she's getting some freedom, but will still be monitored.

“The fight continues and advocates and friends will be continuing to press for a pardon in Washington. We believe that a pardon is the only thing that can begin to set this travesty right,” her attorney concluded. ®

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