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25-year old American Reality Winner accused of latest NSA leak 

If she ends up in jail, her name will be cruelly ironic.

The Donald Trump administration has officially charged 25-year old National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Reality Winner with leaking classified information.

Winner was working for the contractor Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia when she allegedly printed classified material and mailed it to news outlet The Intercept.

That classified material is thought to have been the source for an article that appeared on The Intercept on Monday. In it, The Intercept accuses Russia of executing a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier just days prior to the last November’s presidential election.

Using the leaked information, The Intercept alleges that Russian hackers used a “spear-phishing attack” which involved posing as an e-voting vendor and tricking local government employees into opening documents containing malware.

Once the malware infected the employees’ computers, the hackers would have been able to gain full control over the critical voting information. According to the leaked document, it is unclear whether or not the Russians were successful.

“It is unknown,” The Intercept said quoting the NSA material, “whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accessed by the cyber actor.”

Details about Reality Winner are emerging. According to CNN, Winner was born and raised in Texas and served in the Air Force in Columbia Maryland. While in the Air Force, she served as a linguist and speaks Pashto, Farsi and Dari.

Winner’s mother told CNN that she didn’t know that her daughter worked for the NSA. She also mentioned that Reality was an animal-lover who wasn’t especially political. She also apparently enjoys yoga.

But it’s pretty hard not to be political these days. Reality Winner’s Twitter activity shows that she wasn’t a fan of Trump.

Tweeting under the pseudonym Sara Winners, she regularly attacked the president, calling him an “orange fascist”, criticising his policies and requesting that he resign.

If attacking Trump on Twitter were a crime in itself, half of us would be in jail.

Winner was charged after The Intercept contacted the NSA for comment about its article, providing a copy of the leaked document to the government agency. That probably wasn’t the best way for the news outlet to protect its source.

The NSA put two and two together and confronted Winner, who confessed to leaking the classified document intentionally. Winner has been officially charged with removing and mailing material to a news outlet and if she is found guilty will face up to 10 years in prison.

Like other notable leakers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, Winner is once again sparking the “traitor or hero” debate in the U.S.

Aussie political stirrer Julian Assange has been one of the first to take up arms for Winner. In a series of Tweets starting earlier today, Assange said that Winner “must be supported” and accused The Intercept of not being careful.

USA Today reports that Winner has yet to enter a plea and will face a detention hearing on Thursday.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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