The parents of Reality Winner, who was arrested this week for allegedly leaking top-secret National Security Agency documents, say they fear for their daughter’s safety and worry she won’t get a fair trial.
“My biggest fear in all of this is that she’s not going to get a fair trial, she’s not going to be treated fairly, she’s going to be made an example of,” Billie Winner-Davis, Winner’s mother, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday. “I know that if she did something wrong, she’s always come clean with it, she’s always been willing to accept the consequences. But I’m terrified for her right now because of the news, the climate, the social media.”
The FBI arrested Winner, 25, a federal contractor working in Augusta, Georgia, on Saturday and charged her with violating the Espionage Act. She is accused of “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.” The outlet in question, The Intercept, published an exclusive report on Monday related to a classified NSA document that describes a Russian cyber attack on U.S. voting software.
The Intercept did not reveal Winner as its source, but a trail of clues, including a crease mark on a printout of the classified document sent to the NSA, led authorities to name her as a suspect.
Winner’s arrest follow’s a series of high profile leaks from the government since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly lambasted such actions and called for involved individuals to be prosecuted.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on Tuesday described the Espionage Act as “a fundamental threat to the free press” and demanded the U.S. release Winner on bail, pending trial. She is being held in a federal detention center in Lincolnton, Georgia. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
“Even if you take all the government allegations as true, it’s clear she is neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk,” Snowden said in a statement. “To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all.”
Winner’s stepfather, Gary Davis, described her as a “good person” in multiple interviews and said she was a six-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
“She always does what’s right. She served her country,” Davis told the Daily Mail. “She volunteers, she does whatever she can to make the community and the world better. That’s what she wants to do.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Cooper asked Winner-Davis if her daughter had told them about the alleged leak prior to her arrest.
“She hasn’t admitted it to us at all,” Winner-Davis said. “What she told me was that she was terrified. She was terrified of the situation and she did tell me also that she was afraid she was going to disappear. That they were going to make her disappear. She felt like she needed to give them what they were asking for at the time. And so she was terrified.”