NSA leaker Reality Winner released early for good behavior
Catalin Cimpanu June 14, 2021

NSA leaker Reality Winner released early for good behavior

NSA leaker Reality Winner released early for good behavior

Reality Winner, a former NSA intelligence contractor who leaked a classified hacking report to the press in 2017, was released today from prison for good behavior, her attorney announced on Twitter.

Winner is not yet at large. She has been transferred from prison to a Residential Reentry Management facility in San Antonio, Texas, where she will remain until November 2021, when she will be fully released under supervised release, her lawyer said.

Winner spent almost four years in prison

Winner, who worked for NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation, was initially arrested in June 2017 on charges that a month earlier, she leaked a classified NSA report to online news outlet The Intercept.

In the report, the NSA detailed a hacking campaign linked to Russia’s military intelligence service, the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), which compromised the email accounts of multiple employees of election software maker VR Systems ahead of the 2016 US Presidential Election.

The hack, which took place in August 2016, was used by the GRU hackers as a springboard to send spear-phishing emails with malware-laced documents to US government employees.

Winner’s leak, although not extensive, served as the base material for an article titled “Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election.”

The NSA learned of the leaked report after journalists contacted the agency for comment ahead of publication, and based on court documents, were almost immediately able to trace the leak.

Authorities arrested and charged Winner on June 5, the same day the article went live. She pleaded guilty in June 2018, and two months later, in August, she was sentenced to five years and three months in prison and three years of supervised release.

For the past three years, Winner’s legal team has been trying to clear her name and obtain an early release. Last year, they tried and failed to obtain a pardon from President Trump before he left office. Efforts have also been underway to obtain a pardon from the Biden administration before today’s announcement.

Catalin Cimpanu is a cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He previously worked at ZDNet and Bleeping Computer, where he became a well-known name in the industry for his constant scoops on new vulnerabilities, cyberattacks, and law enforcement actions against hackers.