CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For the last six years, Reality Winner -- whose story is well-documented -- has been paying the price for being a traitor.
At least, that’s what our government -- and many of its citizens -- have called her.
For others, however, it is more complicated than that.
Winner was 25 years old and working in Georgia for a National Security Agency contractor, a job that gave her top-secret clearance.
It was there that she gained access to an intelligence report that had to do with Russia’s role in trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. She would eventually be arrested for leaking that report to the media.
Before any of that, though, the Kingsville native spent six years serving our country in the Air Force.
“I served the American people, and I served to defend the Constitution of the United States, and as someone who worked in military intelligence, there was the constant struggle of having to double-think everything; what I knew that was really going on, versus what the average American knew or understood," she told 3NEWS anchor Mike Gillaspia. "I don’t justify what I did, and even the best of intent can’t mask the fact that I did commit a serious crime.”
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She said she was moved to act out of a sense of duty, but also acknowledges there are things she might have done differently, in hindsight.
“If I felt that strongly about it in my conscience and was that troubled by the information I had seen, I would have found official ways within my agency to address it," she said. "However, I also would have spent some time in therapy working through the emotional issues and the pressures that were building up within me as a troubled citizen, as opposed to doing something rash and illegal.”
Winner was ultimately charged and convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917.
When asked whether she feels she was singled-out unfairly, she said she owns the choices she made for herself.
“I don’t live my life with the sense of a victim, or being grieved all the time about it, because nobody made me do what I did, and I have always accepted responsibility, even from Day One,” she said.
However, she also said conversations need to be had in our country about whether it is appropriate to use such a law to convict whistleblowers and “truth-tellers.”
As a part of her probation, Winner is under a curfew that begins at 10 p.m. each day and ends at 6 the next morning. That ends in November 2024.
As we’ve reported, there are also two movies about her experience. One has just been picked up by HBO and should be released soon. The other has been shot and is in post-production.