The parents of the 25-year-old alleged NSA leaker Reality Winner spoke to Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, where they expressed shock and disbelief that their daughter was arrested, but called her a “patriot” for purportedly passing highly classified information to the media.
“She was very scared,” Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told Cooper. “They took her by surprise. She was not expecting any of this.”
Winner was arrested on Saturday and will be charged with leaking classified information to the media. The 25-year-old Air Force veteran faces up to 10 years’ incarceration.
The Department of Justice released a statement shortly after Winner’s arrest. The statement read:
“A criminal complaint was filed in the Southern District of Georgia today charging Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia, 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).”
“On or about May 9, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”
In the days after her arrest, reports emerged that Winner was part of the “Resistance” movement and had ties to Muslim civil rights’ groups.
“I didn’t know what company she worked for,” Winner-Davis told Cooper. “I don’t know what she did when she went to work.”
Winner-Davis revealed that her daughter called her on Saturday and told her that she was in trouble, and that she had spoken with her since her arrest.
“She was afraid she was going to disappear, that [the government was] going to make her disappear,” Winner-Davis said. “And she felt like she needed to give them what they were asking for at the time.”
Her stepfather, Gary Davis, added that the treatment of Winner is “disheartening.”
“She served her country, she is a veteran,” Davis said. “She’s a patriot, and to see her maligned and slandered in the media is very disheartening.”
Winner-Davis interjected that if her daughter is guilty, she knows that “she’s ready to pay the price.”
“My biggest fear in all of this is that she’s not going to get a fair trial,” Winner-Davis added. “She’s going to be made an example of … I’m terrified for her right now because of the news, the climate, the social media.”
As for her daughter’s reported alt-left ties, Winner-Davis denied any knowledge of the notion whatsoever.
“She’s never ever given me any kind of indication that she was in favor of that at all,” Winner-Davis said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”