When a 25-year-old National Security Agency contractor was arrested by the FBI at her Augusta home on Saturday, it brought the impassioned debate over leaked documents directly into Georgia.
On Monday, Reality Leigh Winner was charged with allegedly leaking a top secret report to the web site The Intercept. Winner’s arrest was announced about an hour after The Intercept reported it had received a top secret government report about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In the federal complaint, Winner is accused of "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet." She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, leading other self-professed whistleblowers like Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange to leap to her defense.
Here’s what else is known about Winner:
» She’s a Texas girl. Winner was raised in Kingsville, Texas, located near Corpus Christi. Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told The Guardian newspaper Reality has one sister, who is studying for a Ph.D. in pharmacology.
» She’s an Air Force veteran who reportedly speaks four languages. Winner spent six years in the Air Force, where she studied languages and worked as a linguist. She reportedly speaks Farsi, Pashto and Dari, according to her mother.
» She’d been on the Georgia job about four months. After the Air Force, Winner became a contractor at Pluribus International Corp. The company has over 20 locations around the world, including one here at Fort Gordon. Winner was assigned to a U.S. government facility here starting on Feb. 13 and had top-secret security clearance.
She’s an animal lover and an athlete. A high school tennis player turned Crossfit enthusiast, Winner frequently shared videos of herself working out on her Facebook page, as well as photos from her travels. Her mom says she loves animals; when Reality contacted Billie after her arrest, she reportedly asked her for help on relocating her dog and cat during her absence.
As “Sara Winners,” she’s actively expressed her views on Twitter. Her mother says Reality wasn’t particularly political and hadn’t ever expressed admiration for Edward Snowden and other leakers. Yet “Sara Winner” acted otherwise on social media, according to this AJC story: “Her feeds show forceful views on climate change, refugees, the war in Syria and her distinct dislike of Trump and his policies. She also showed support for the citizens of one of the nation’s top adversaries.”
Her stepfather says she’s not the person the world suddenly thinks it knows: The depiction of Winner through social media is not an “an accurate portrayal of my daughter,” Gary Davis, Winner’s stepfather, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. She’s a veteran, six years’ service of the Air Force,” he said. “She received commendations during that time. She’s just a passionate young woman who probably made some mistakes.”