Federal contractor Reality Leigh Winner arrested for sending classified NSA intelligence to news outlet
A 25-year-old federal contractor is facing charges she leaked a classified National Security Agency document to a news outlet in May.
The charges against Reality Leigh Winner came about an hour after the publication of a story based on an NSA document detailing Russian attempts to hack American voting systems in 2016.
President Trump has been pushing Justice to go after leakers inside the federal government, which he has identified as "the big story" when it comes to Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Winner's arrest could signal the federal government is going to aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals who send classified intelligence to news organizations.
Trump and other Republican allies in Washington have made pursuing leakers one of their top priorities, but Winner is the first to face charges for releasing classified intelligence.
Winner, of Augusta, Ga., is facing charges that she removed classified material from a government facility and mailed it to a news outlet. She was arrested on Saturday and appeared on the charge Monday.
The announcement came shortly after The Intercept published a report based on a classified intelligence document showing Russian government hackers attempted to hack more than 100 local election officials before the November election.
According to the report, Russian military intelligence sent the emails to local elections officials. They also attempted a cyberattack on at least one American voting software supplier.
The Justice Department didn't confirm that Winner leaked the document to The Intercept, but the report stated the report received by the news outlet was dated May 5. The affidavit confirms the intelligence document was also dated on May 5.
Winner worked for Pluribus International Corporation and was assigned to a government facility in Georgia. She's held a top secret classified security clearance since being hired on Feb. 13.
She is accused of sending the classified document to a news outlet a few days after printing it off.
The government was not aware Winner leaked the document until a news outlet contacted government officials for comment on an upcoming report based on a document they believed to be classified. After receiving and reviewing a copy of the document, the government began an investigation.
"The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space," the affidavit read.
Winner was identified because she was one of six people who printed the document off of their computer. Of those six, she was the only one who had any email contact with a news outlet.
"Winner further acknowledged that she was aware of the contents of the intelligence reporting and that she knew the contents of the reporting could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation," the affidavit stated.
"During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a ‘need to know,' and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified."
Winner remains under investigation.