DOJ charges govt contractor with leaking top secret material to The Intercept

A federal contractor for a US intelligence agency has allegedly admitted to copying classified materials and sending it to a news source. The charges reportedly stem from the publishing of top secret NSA documents by The Intercept.

The FBI arrested Reality Leigh Winner, 25, at her Georgia home on Saturday, according to a Monday news release from the US Department of Justice. Winner has been charged with “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.”

“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government. People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to the Justice Department, Winner was hired by Pluribus International Corporation in February and assigned to an unnamed government agency facility in Georgia where she held a top secret clearance.

The FBI was contacted by an unnamed government agency on June 1, informing, that it had been contacted by an unnamed news outlet on May 30 regarding a top secret document it had received from someone in their agency, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Justin Garrick.

The government agency soon confirmed that the information was classified at the time it was published on May 5. The affidavit states that the information is still considered classified.

On closer inspection, the government agency found certain pages of the document had been folded or creased, suggesting that they were printed and carried out of a secured space. The agency conducted an internal audit and found six people who had printed the documents in question. Out of those six individuals, Winner was the only one who had email contact with the news outlet.

After the FBI spoke with Winner at her home in Augusta, Georgia, she admitted to “intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting,” according to the affidavit. She was also accused of removing the documents from the office and mailing them to the news outlet.

According to the affidavit, Winner also admitted that the news outlet was “not authorized to receive or possess the documents” and the information in the documents “could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

Although the intelligence agency and news source were both unnamed in the affidavit, NBC News reported that a senior federal official confirmed that the documents were from the National Security Agency (NSA) and named the news source Winner sent the documents to as The Intercept.

On Monday, the Intercept published a secret report from the NSA that alleged the Russian Military Intelligence had launched a cyber attack on a voting machine software company and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before the 2016 US presidential election. 

Winner was arrested on June 3 for being in violation of 18 USC Section 793(e). She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.