Stepfather of Reality Winner says Augusta cyber contractor arrested in data breach is a ‘good kid’

An Augusta resident and National Security Agency contractor charged with leaking a classified report told investigators she understands the damage her actions could cause the nation.

 

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was a contract employee for Pluribus International Corp. at the NSA Georgia facility on Fort Gordon. Stories about her outspoken political messages on social media paint her as a member of an anti-Trump resistance group, but her stepfather Gary Davis said she was kindhearted with a record of community and military service.

SEE MORE: Special Section on Reality Winner case

“My daughter served with distinction,” Davis said. “She’s a veteran, and she was well thought of by her commanders. She served with distinction and executed missions in the war on terror against ISIS and al-Qaeda. She’s a good kid with a good heart.”

Winner was arrested Saturday after telling investigators that she intentionally delivered the documentation. The criminal complaint affidavit released by the Department of Justice said Winner knew that the contents of the report could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.

Winner lives in the 1900 block of Battle Row in the Harrisburg area. Her stepfather was in Augusta on Tuesday.

“We are overwhelmed. You are never prepared for something like this,” Davis said. “You know, you see it on the news and you think, ‘I don’t ever want to be there.’ Now I’m there and I really don’t want to be there.”

Winner is an Air Force veteran who served as a linguist, a job that requires a security clearance. She joined the military in 2010, but it is unclear when she was given a top secret clearance. Once obtained, a security clearance investigation must be renewed every five years to remain active. She started her job at NSA Georgia with Pluribus International in February with an already-active clearance.

The documents released to The Intercept provide evidence that Russian cyberintelligence efforts targeted U.S. election officials just before the November presidential election. The NSA report is dated May 5, and The Intercept contacted the intelligence agency about the documents May 30, according to the affidavit. Winner was arrested Saturday, and the affidavit was released by the Department of Justice on Monday.

Winner was said to be active on Twitter using the name “Sara Winners.” Through that account, the user attacked President Trump’s policies, calling him a “fascist.” The Department of Justice did not say whether political beliefs played a role as motive. Davis said Reality was the name she was given at birth.

 

 

“She was named by her father. They were planning on calling her Leigh, but when the baby sitters kept calling her reality, it just stuck.”

The affidavit said the documents received by the media outlet appeared to be folded, suggesting Winner printed and hand-carried them from a secured space. The intelligence agency initiated an internal audit and discovered that six people had printed the document but found that only one of them used a desk computer to contact the news agency.

Davis said Winner volunteered with Athletes Serving Athletes and helped foster abused animals. She moved to Augusta in December and was living alone, but he said he could not speculate about her motives.

He said she left the Air Force in December 2016.

According to the affidavit, the material in the report is still considered highly classified.

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com.

 


 

 

 

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