The family of an ex-NSA translator who leaked a report about Russian election meddling to journalists has said it is a “huge disappointment” President Joe Biden has not granted her a full pardon.
Reality Winner, 29, was given the longest ever sentence for unauthorized release of government information when she was convicted under the Espionage Act in 2018.
She remained in a federal detention center in her native Texas serving her five-year sentence despite urgent pleas for compassionate release from her family last year after she caught Covid.
The former intelligence specialist was finally released to home arrest in June and is now staying in her parents’ home as her family fights for her to receive clemency, if not a full pardon, and claims the way she was treated was “wrong.”
Her story is hitting the spotlight again this week after a show based on the transcripts of her first interview with the FBI opened on Broadway and a new documentary about her case hits film festivals.
The family hopes to see “public outcry” as Is This a Room introduces Broadway audiences to Winner’s case after years without any political support.
Exclusively speaking to The Sun, Winner’s mom Billie Jean Winner-Davis revealed her fears for her daughter while in prison and not being able to contact her while she was ill.
She also expressed her disappointment that the Biden administration, or any elected officials, have not spoken out about her case as she claimed that Winner’s actions had helped to make the 2020 presidential election a more secure vote.
“It's been a huge disappointment not to hear back from this administration and not to receive any kind of acknowledgment of Reality Winner out there publicly,” she said.
“I know they know who she is. I know that they know that there are people calling for pardon or clemency.
“It would mean the world to me, and to her, and to a lot of people, that this administration just acknowledges Reality Winner and acknowledge that what was done to her was wrong.
“She didn't deserve the treatment that she received. She didn't deserve the sentence that she received. The easiest thing that this president can do is to decide to give her clemency.
“It would be so easy for Biden to tell Reality, ‘you've served your time. You've done four years in prison. That's enough,’” Billie Jean added.
“It would be so easy for him to do that.
“I pray that at some point in time, that he does [grant clemancy] and then at some point in time, either he or another president grants her a full pardon that makes her completely free from all of these restrictions.”
PETITION FOR PARDON
Winner, who served in the Air Force between 2010 and 2016, was jailed on June 3, 2017, after she admitted to printing off a classified intelligence assessment about a Russian phishing attack targeting election support companies during the 2016 presidential election.
At the time, she was working with NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation translating documents from Persian related to Iran’s aerospace program.
As detailed in Is This A Room, Winner admitted to coming across the election assessment through her translation work and told the FBI she became “frustrated” that proof of Russian interference was not made available to the public.
She printed the report off and smuggled it out of the NSA office in Augusta, Georgia, in her pantyhose.
Winner then mailed the report to The Intercept who broke the news after she was already in custody.
The translator has said that she “wasn’t trying to be a [Edward] Snowden or anything” and her family has argued that she should be pardoned as she acted for the public’s interest and not her own.
The administration has no choice but to look at it and actually consider what Reality went through and whether she deserves clemency or a presidential pardon.Brittany Winner
They have now mounted a petition calling on Biden to act.
“Unfortunately, nobody from Congress or who is really deeply involved in the government has publicly supported her,” Winner’s sister Brittany told The Sun.
“If we have a large public outcry about the fact that Reality Winner has not received the presidential pardon, we're hoping to reach one person who has the president’s ear.
“Politically it's a little bit complicated apparently,” she added.
“I only really have one concern and that's that Reality is truly free but politicians and everybody else have 100s if not several thousands of other concerns, other things, and other people that they need to look out for.
“Honestly, unless something great happens and we gain access to somebody who has the ear of the President, or we get an elected representative interested in Reality, we think that one of the only ways that we're actually going to push this through is if we have enough public outcry,” Brittany continued.
“So that the administration has no choice but to look at it and actually consider what Reality went through and whether she deserves clemency or a presidential pardon.”
'ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY'
Winner has been blasted as an American traitor by some who believe she put the US at risk by leaking information on election safety.
She apologized for her actions in 2018, stating that they were a “cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me.”
Former President Trump even rushed to her support in August 2018, saying that her prison sentence was “unfair” and her leak “small potatoes compared to what Hillary Clinton did.”
“I've seen and read her so many negative things about her. That she was naive,” her mom Billie Jean said.
“Yes, she was naive. She got caught because she didn't cover her tracks. She's not a criminal. She doesn't have that criminal mind.
“And then the people who call her a traitor.
“How can you call a person a traitor who is giving us information about an attack on our voting system and attack on our structure that makes us a free nation,” she hit back.
“An attack on our democracy. She was giving Americans information about an enemy attack. That's not a traitor.
How do you recover your faith in institutions that failed miserably and that just failed her?Brittany Winner
“Her actions made the 2020 election more secure,” Bille also claimed, despite acknowledging she did not know whether changes were made before last year’s vote.
“I do think that Reality, exposing the attacks on the actual voting system helped. When Reality released that one document.”
Sister Brittany also argued that clemency or pardon is necessary to allow Winner to reestablish her life, with still three years of parole awaiting her even when her sentence is finished and the house arrest is lifted.
Brittany said that Reality has not lost the sense of humor she says is displayed in Is This a Room, where she continues to joke with FBI agents even as it becomes more obvious that she is in trouble.
Yet Brittany claims the 29-year-old has lost “faith” in the government.
“Prison has changed Reality,” she stated.
“She's been pushed down, she’s been silenced. It felt especially for us as her family, we felt so helpless as well we couldn't reach the right people to help us and to speak out about Reality and to do what they could.
“Everybody kind of shrugs and moves on with their lives but we never stopped fighting and we never will.
“But for Reality, I think that she’s pretty tired of fighting for herself and trying to try to get good things done.
“It goes up and down with her moods. Sometimes she’s ready to go out and build the rest of her life and figure out where she's going,” Brittany added.
“And other times she just seems so lost. I've never been in that situation that she was in, the utter helplessness of not having any control over her own life.
“What I do see is that she has a little bit less faith in the system.
“The way that she served her country for six years in the Air Force and then released the document she did that she believed would benefit America.
“And then just to have the American government completely throw the book at her, make an example of her, and try to silence her for more than four years.
“How do you recover your faith in institutions that failed miserably and that just failed her?”
The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment on Winner’s family’s pardon pleas.
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