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US Election Hack Whistleblower Gets Five Years

Former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Reality Winner has been sentenced to over five years in prison after leaking details on Russian efforts to target the 2016 presidential election.

The 63-month sentence was expected but her supporters have always argued that she acted out of frustration that the truth of Kremlin targeting of voting infrastructure was not being outed, and of misinformation in the right-wing broadcast media.

In fact, the subsequent report from The Intercept provided local election officials with information that had up to that point been withheld from them by the intelligence agencies.

However, it was that report that was to be her downfall, after a copy of the top secret intelligence document she printed and smuggled out in her underwear was shared by the publication with the authorities in order to prove its veracity.

Unfortunately, tiny microdots on the paper identified the printer that had been used along with the date and time, leading investigators to Winner.

The information blew the lid on the true scale of Russian attempts to impact the 2016 election, detailing how Kremlin hackers had spear-phished at least 100 state and local voting officials in the week prior to election day, by targeting a US voting software supplier.

A statement from The Intercept stopped short of an apology and instead focused on Winner’s selflessness.

“After an internal review, we acknowledged shortcomings in our handling of the document. However, it soon became clear that the government had at its disposal, and had aggressively used, multiple methods to quickly hunt down Winner,” it read.

“Reality Winner’s courage and sacrifice for the good of her country should be honored, not punished. Selective and politically motivated prosecutions of leakers and whistleblowers under the Espionage Act — which dramatically escalated under Barack Obama, opening the door for the Trump Justice Department’s abuses — are an attack on the First Amendment that will one day be judged harshly by history.”

The sentence could be viewed as particularly harsh given that no US personnel were put in any danger, nor information disclosed that foreign agents wouldn’t already have access to.

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