US

Reality Winner: What punishment does accused NSA leaker face?

Accused NSA leaker Reality Leigh Winner was charged in Georgia with sending a classified report containing "top secret level" information to an online news organization.

The report Winner allegedly leaked is dated May 5, the same date the document The Intercept posted online Monday concerning purported Russian hacker activity during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The FBI arrested Winner, 25, on Saturday, the Department of Justice said.

For a federal government contractor charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, allegedly leaking a classified report may come with a hefty prison sentence. 

Here's what you should know about the charges and potential punishment she's facing, as well as what's happened to others charged under the Espionage Act. 

What has Winner been charged with? 

She was charged "with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 793(e)," according to the Department of Justice.

What happens under 18 U.S. Code Section 793(e)? 

This section falls under the 1917 Espionage Act. It applies to "Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document [...] or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted" or tries to deliver it or causes it to be sent "to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it." 

Punishment could mean a fine "or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both," the code says. 

What has happened to other people accused of leaking documents under the Espionage Act? 

Edward Snowden

The former NSA contractor gained worldwide media coverage for leaking information about surveillance programs.

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he told the Guardian in June 2013

That same month, authorities charged him with unauthorized communication of national defence information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, both of which under the Espionage Act, the Washington Post reported. He was also charged with theft of government property. 

Snowden is currently living in asylum in Russia, a status which was extended to 2020

If he returns to the U.S., Snowden could face up to 30 years in prison for violations under the Espionage Act.

Chelsea Manning

Pvt. Chelsea Manning was known as Bradley Manning before she transitioned in prison. She was convicted in 2013 of leaking secret military and State Department documents and battlefield video.

A native of Crescent, Okla., she was convicted in a military court martial of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

Manning acknowledged leaking the materials, saying she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians. She also said she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S., but critics said the leaks endangered information sources.

In January 2017, shortly before leaving office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. She served nearly seven years of her 35-year sentence at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before being released on May 17.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.