A story about someone named Reality Winner has got to start with the name. Her father, playing on the family name, explained he wanted “a real winner.” And so, Reality. Maybe that still doesn’t make sense, but it is the least baffling fact in this story. Reality Winner became an infamous name in 2017, when she was accused of espionage. She was hit with the longest sentence ever imposed on a civilian for leaking classified information to the media. Now released, she spoke with us for a story that first aired in December. Did Reality Winner do “exceptionally grave damage,” as the prosecutors said? Or did she reveal a truth that defended America? It’s complicated — just like the young woman with the unforgettable name.
Reality Winner: I am not a traitor. I am not a spy. I am somebody who only acted out of love for what this country stands for.
We met 30-year-old Reality Winner, at home in Texas, after four years behind bars. ‘Espionage’ seemed surprising for a woman who joined the Air Force at 19 and won the Air Force Commendation Medal, in 2016, for “600 enemies killed in action.” She did that as a linguist in a combat unit fighting secret missions. [Continue reading…]