A federal contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA) was arrested over the weekend for leaking a “top secret level” report on Russia to the news media.
Reality Leigh Winner appeared in U.S. District 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 confirmed Monday.
DOJ officials didn’t specify details of the information, but the arrest affidavit said that the report was dated “on or about” May 5. That date coincides with a report by the Intercept detailing how Russian hackers attempted to attack at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent so-called “spear-phishing” emails to more than 100 local election officials at the end of October or beginning of November.
Former Defense Intelligence Chairman James R. Clapper, NSA chief Mike Rogers, and former FBI director James Comey have all testified before Congress that Russian interference did not change any actual votes.
Winner, who held a top-secret classified security clearance, had worked for Pluribus International Corporation since February before the leaker allegations. She was assigned to a U.S. government facility in Georgia. The affidavit sworn by FBI agent Justin Garrick said that she had previously served in the Air Force and held a top-secret security clearance. It also says that the government was made aware of the leak by the media outlet that received it.
Winner’s attorney, Titus Thomas Nichols, declined to confirm the report or to name the federal agency for which Winner worked.
“My client has no (criminal) history, so it’s not as if she has a pattern of having done anything like this before,” Nichols told the Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. “She is a very good person. All this craziness has happened all of a sudden.”
Mr. Garrick said in his affidavit that the originating agency determined only six employees had made physical copies of the report and Winner was one of them. Garrick said investigators found Winner had exchanged email with the news outlet using her work computer, and admitted to the crime during questioning at her home on Saturday.
The affidavit reads that she “admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue” and mailing it to the news outlet.