NSA contractor accused of leaking top secret report on Russian hacking efforts
A federal contractor was arrested over the weekend and accused of leaking a top-secret intelligence report on Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 presidential election.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, appeared in federal court in Augusta, Ga., to face one charge of removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet, the Justice Department said Monday.
Winner’s arrest was announced shortly after the Intercept website published a story detailing efforts by Russian hackers to penetrate computers belonging to more than 100 local election officials. The story cites an NSA report claiming that the hacking efforts were masterminded by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU.
The Justice Department did not specify that Winner was being charged in connection with the Intercept’s report. However, the site noted that the NSA report cited in its story was dated May 5 of this year. The affidavit supporting Winner’s arrest also said that the report was dated "on or about" May 5.
The Washington Examiner reported that Winner worked for Pluribus International Corporation and was assigned to a U.S. government facility in Georgia. She held a top-secret classified security clearance since being hired this past February.
Prosecutors said Winner admitted to printing off a copy of the NSA report and sending it to an "online news outlet." The outlet eventually contacted federal investigators, who determined that the information had been illicitly leaked.
Winner was identified as the leaker after investigators determined that she was one of just six people to print the report off her computer and the only one of those six to have contact with the news outlet.
According to court documents, Winner was questioned Saturday at her home and admitted that she was aware of the report’s contents, as well as that "the contents of the reporting could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation."