AUGUSTA, Ga. — A young woman charged with leaking U.S. government secrets to a reporter poses no flight risk if she's released from pre-trial confinement, her parents said, though they fear prosecutors will seek to use the case to send a tough message from the Trump administration.
It will be difficult for 25-year-old Reality Winner to get a fair trial if her case becomes “this big thing where we're not going to tolerate leakers,” Winner's mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.
“I think they're going to try to make an example out of her because of the political climate right now,” Winner-Davis said.
Winner, a former Air Force linguist who now works as a U.S. government contractor, was arrested Saturday by FBI agents on charges that she made copies of a classified report containing top-secret information and mailed it to an online news organization.
A judge has scheduled a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court to determine whether to allow Winner to be released on bond pending trial. She has been jailed in neighboring Lincoln County since her arrest, according to a booking report released by the sheriff.
“She's not a flight risk,” said Gary Davis, Winner's stepfather. “Everybody in America knows what she looks like at this point. She's never ran away from anything in her life. She's not a violent person. She has no record. There's no reason to hold her.”
Prosecutors have not named the news outlet, but her arrest was announced Monday as the website The Intercept reported it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting Russian hackers had attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before last year's presidential election.
The Intercept said the NSA report was dated May 5 — the same date court records cited for the documents Winner is accused of leaking.
Winner grew up in Kingsville, Texas, and enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school. Davis said she became a linguist, speaking Arabic and Farsi, and spent four years assigned to the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. During that time, he said, Winner provided real-time translation to Americans conducting field missions.
Davis said she received a commendation for aiding in the deaths of more than 100 enemy combatants and more than 250 enemy captures.
“If she made this mistake,” Davis said, referring to the leaked documents, “it needs to be balanced against what she has done in the past and how she has served this country.”
Neither prosecutors nor Winner's parents have identified the government agency where she worked at the time of her arrest. But the NSA has operated a $286 million complex in Augusta since 2012.
Though she was active on social media, Winner doesn't appear to have discussed her work online. She did use her Facebook page to speak freely about politics, including some scathing opinions on President Donald Trump.
She posted on Facebook three months ago that climate change is a more important issue than health care “since not poisoning an entire population seems to be more in line with ‘health’ care, and not the disease care system that people voted for a soulless ginger orangutan to ‘fix.’”
Court records say Winner admitted to mailing a copy of the classified report to a news outlet when an FBI agent interviewed her at her home Saturday.
In a court affidavit filed late Tuesday, the FBI said it seized Winner's U.S. passport, two spiral-bound notebooks, two laptop computers and a Department of Defense-issued country handbook for Iran.
Investigators said in court records that they wanted to search her property for a variety of computer information as well as possible contacts with media outlets and any possible contacts with “foreign governments, foreign powers, or agents of foreign powers.”
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling of Fort Meade.