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Reality Winner defends actions that got her convicted of espionage: ‘Only acted out of love’

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  • Reality Winner
    American federal contractor

On Sunday, Reality Winner sat down with Scott Pelley from “60 Minutes” for her first televised interview. She was recently released on parole after spending four years in prison stemming from an espionage conviction for leaking an NSA report about Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Winner alleges that the White House was trying to cover up the report, so she mailed it to a watch group who published it. As a result she was convicted of espionage in 2018. However, she has vehemently denied that she did anything to hurt the U.S., and was only trying to help.

“I am not a traitor,” Winner said. “I am not a spy. I am somebody who only acted out of love for what this country stands for.”

While prosecuting attorney Bobby Christine was able to accuse her of heinous crimes, in court Winner was not allowed to discuss the information she leaked or why she leaked it due to restrictions in the Espionage Act. But she did share with Pelley what she would have liked to have told the court about releasing the report.

“That I thought this was the truth,” Winner said. “But also, did not betray our sources and methods. Did not cause damage. Did not put lives on the line. It only filled in a question mark that was tearing our country in half in may 2017. And that I meant no harm.”

Winner is legally still not allowed to discuss the details of her case, but she looks forward to the day when she can clear her name.

“I've had four years of just trying to say I'm not a terrorist,” Winner said while tears rolled down her cheeks. “I can't even begin to talk about my actual espionage indictment. Or have a sense of accomplishment in having survived prison. Because I'm still stained by them accusing me of being [in] the same groups that I enlisted in the Air Force to fight against.”

Video Transcript

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.

KYLIE MAR: On Sunday, Reality Winner sat down with Scott Pelley from 60 Minutes for her first televised interview. She was recently released on parole after spending four years in prison stemming from an espionage conviction for leaking an NSA report about Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

SCOTT PELLEY: You knew it was stamped top secret. You knew what that meant.

REALITY WINNER: I knew that. I knew it was secret. But I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people. And at that point in time, it felt like they were being led astray.

KYLIE MAR: Winner alleges that the White House was trying to cover up the report, so she mailed it to a watch group who published it. As a result, she was charged with espionage in 2017.

- Winner's willful, purposeful disclosure caused exceptionally grave damage to US national security.

KYLIE MAR: While prosecuting attorney Bobby Christine was able to accuse her of heinous crimes, in court, Winner was not allowed to discuss the information she leaked or why she leaked it due to restrictions in the Espionage Act. But she did share with Pelley what she would have liked to have told the court about releasing the report.

REALITY WINNER: Did not betray our sources and methods, did not cause damage, did not put lives on the line. It only filled in a question mark that was tearing our country in half in May 2017 and that I meant no harm.

KYLIE MAR: The hashtag #PardonRealityWinner trended as viewers took to Twitter to offer her their support like this person who wrote, Reality Winner, you're a patriot. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Hold your head up high young lady. I believe you. Thank you for your service. Winner is legally not allowed to discuss the details of her case, but she looks forward to the day when she can clear her name.

REALITY WINNER: I've had four years of just trying to say I'm not a terrorist. I can't even begin to talk about my actual espionage indictment because I'm still stained by them accusing me of being the same groups that I enlisted in the Air Force to fight against.