BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A contractor accused of leaking top secrets used to live and work in Maryland.
When former government contractor Reality Winner lived in Howard County, it was a much quieter time.
Now the eyes of the world are on her social media accounts. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned her at a White House press briefing, and she is the first person the Trump Administration has criminally charged with leaking.
Winner faces 10 years in prison for leaking classified government secrets to the online publication The Intercept.
Her parents defended their daughter.
“I have seen so many ugly things out there,” says her mom Billie Winner-Davis. “She doesn’t deserve that. I just want her to be treated fairly.”
“I know my daughter is a patriot,” says stepfather Gary Davis. “She had of the highest classified jobs in the Air Force.”
The classified documents the Department of Justice to accuses Winner of stealing show Russian military intelligence was trying to access voter registration information just days before the presidential election, sending fake emails filled with spyware to election officials.
“I think it’s important to note that any disclosure of classified or sensitive information clearly can clearly threaten our national security,” Spicer said.
Winner’s mother said her daughter was not political, but WJZ found anti-trump Twitter posts linked to her. She even retweeted Edward Snowden, another former Howard County resident who famously leaked documents.
Records show she lived in an apartment in Columbia. She worked in the Air Force a linguist before taking the government contracting job based in Georgia.
“I’m certainly not shocked because this is where the game is,” says Ted Sidey of Columbia. “The NSA is down the street, you’ve got people that live here who work at the DOD, the FBI, you’ve got contractors everywhere.”
The federal complaint says Winner admitted to the theft, which is of high interest as Congress investigates Russian hacking.
“This investigation, it’s fundamentally an investigation into potential espionage, potential treason,” says Sen. Tim Kaine.
Winner’s mother said if her daughter did something wrong she needs to pay for it. But she doesn’t want her being made a scapegoat or poster child.
She has been charged under the Espionage Act. An audit revealed she was one of six people who printed out the classified Russian hacking information.