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Coronavirus US: Reality Winner and 500 inmates test positive

Former NSA contractor Reality Winner, who was convicted of leaking classified documents to a news website, has tested positive for the coronavirus at a federal medical prison in Texas where more than 500 other inmates have come down with COVID-19. 

The number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 510 on Tuesday, only two days after the Bureau of Prisons reported that 200 women there had tested positive for the virus.

Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,156 cases as of Tuesday.   

‘We’re like a whole bunch of hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails,’ said Carswell inmate Holli Chapman.

FMC-Carswell holds female inmates with medical and mental health issues. It currently has 1,357 prisoners. 

Among the more high profile inmates, Winner, 28, is serving a five-year prison sentence after the former government contractor pleaded guilty to mailing a classified report to a news organization. 

Since April, many inmates have told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram that they were concerned the virus could spread through the prison. 

Carswell’s administration directed questions to the Bureau of Prisons. A spokesperson did not immediately respond when reached out.

The agency said in a statement to the Associated Press that it is taking precautions to stem the virus’ spread.

‘As with any type of emergency situation, we carefully assess how to best ensure the safety of staff, inmates and the public,’ the agency said. ‘All of our facilities are implementing the BOP´s guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19.’

Texas is among states that have seen a new surge in coronavirus cases after reopening from mandated lockdowns in May that were imposed to contain the outbreak. 

The state has had more than 351,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which has been blamed for more than 4,100 deaths. 

Across the US, there have been more than 3.8 million cases of the coronavirus, which has been blamed for more than 141,000 deaths.  

Winner in 2018 pleaded guilty to a single count of transmitting national security information for printing out a classified report at a NSA office in Augusta, Georgia where she worked as a contractor and tucking it into her pantyhose. 

The document, a description of Russian attempts to hack into US voting software, was leaked to The Intercept.

Winner, an Air Force veteran, was employed by NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia when she took the classified material. 

Winner, prior to her conviction, referred to President Donald Trump as an ‘orange fascist’ in a tweet, and wrote in a diary ‘I want to burn the White House down’, according to prosecutors.

She also expressed admiration for the Taliban in the diary, prosecutors said. 

Her mother Billie Winner-Davis told CNN last year that her daughter was painted as an ‘evil person, who hates her country.’ 

‘They don’t want the world to be exposed to the real Reality Winner,’ the mother told the cable news station in defense of her daughter.

US Attorney Bobby L. Christine acknowledged in a statement last year that Winner’s sentence was the longest received by a defendant for an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to the media, saying the sentence was merited by the crime.

‘She knowingly and intentionally betrayed the trust of her colleagues and her country,’ Christine said.

‘This was not a victimless crime,’ he added. ‘The document Winner compromised did, in fact, contain TOP SECRET information about the sources and methods used to acquire the intelligence described in the report.’ 

‘That means it revealed how U.S. Intelligence Agencies obtained information,’ Christine said, adding that the leak impaired the ability of the U.S. to gather similar information in the future.

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