If you work for an organization called the National Security Agency – it's never a good idea to print out a copy of a secret military intelligence report and mail it to a news outlet.
But that's what 26-year-old Reality Winner got busted for last year. Reality Winner, by the way, is apparently not her spy name. As a millennial, perhaps Miss Winner thought her old-school spy craft of mailing a physical piece of paper in an envelope would go undetected. She thought wrong.
Yesterday, Winner accepted a plea deal, and a federal judge sentenced her to 5 years and 3 months in prison. She could've received 10 years. Her attorney said: "She's a good person… who didn't understand the magnitude of what she was doing."
Really? Did she miss orientation day at the NSA or something? What did she think they do there all day long?
In court, Winner said:
I had no intention to harm national security.
Well, except for that time she mailed an intelligence report to an online news outlet. Oops, I meant to mail my dad a Father's Day card and I dropped this top-secret memo that I printed out in the mailbox instead.
The classified NSA memo contained information about a cyberattack by Russians on a U.S. voting software supplier. Winner mailed the memo to The Intercept, which then published a detailed article about it.
The detective work on this one was easy. The Intercept contacted the NSA and said, "hey, we got a copy of one of your memos… care to comment?" The NSA found that Winner was one of just six people who had printed the memo, and she was the only one who had email contact with The Intercept from her work computer.
Winner was clearly not good spy material, nor quite the patriot that her parents insist she is.
During the trial, it was also revealed that Winner wrote in a personal notebook:
I want to burn the White House down.
She also indicated a strong desire to travel to Pakistan and meet the Taliban. Then, while she was in the Air Force, prior to working at the NSA, there was the time she used her work computer to Google search:
Do top secret computers detect when flash drives are inserted?
Winner was clearly not good spy material, nor quite the patriot that her parents insist she is. But there's also the disturbing question of how the NSA hired such a Winner in the first place.