The FBI arrested Monday an NSA contractor that leaked classified intelligence on the alleged Russian meddling with last year’s presidential election to the press. Reality Winner, 25, is now facing charges of removing classified documents from a government facility and risks 10 years behind bars.
Classified Info Was Leaked to the Intercept
Winner allegedly stole classified information from the agency she was working for and e-mailed it to a news outlet. People familiar with the matter told ABC News that the contractor is now charged in connection to the May 5 article published by The Intercept based on the leaked documents. The Intercept is best known for the exclusive publication of similar leaks provided by another NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
According to court documents, Winner featured as an employee of Pluribus International Corporation when he was arrested. She had been working as a government contractor in Georgia where she had a top-secret security clearance.
Before that she had worked as an Air Force translator who speaks Dari, Farsi, and Pahto. Her lawyer said Monday night that she was still in custody, and that a court would rule whether she should be released Thursday.
Her attorney underlined that she is a “good person” and her case stems from a “political whirlwind”. Her family described her a s a very outspoken and passionate person. Winner’s mother said that she didn’t know her daughter was involved in politics “or any of that”.
Winner leaked the classified info to The Intercept after an March 22 podcast of the outlet. Intercept editors noted that there is a lot of buzz around Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S., but there was no “hard evidence” to support the accusations.
Host Jeremy Scahill said the “hysterics” around the said interference had led to a lot of premature conclusions, but evidence is still lacking. Several days later, Winner allegedly requested transcripts of the podcast from her Gmail account.
FBI Busts NSA Leaker
Over a month later, the NSA produced some sort of evidence in great secrecy. Days later, Winner printed it out and e-mailed it to the publication. About three weeks later, on May 30, The Intercept asked the spy agency to confirm the authenticity of the document. The NSA confirmed Winner’s material was authentic, but the agency did not know how it landed in the media’s hands.
The agency told The Intercept that the disclosure of the top-secret information could gravely impact the national security. A couple of days later the NSA asked the FBI to conduct an investigation and learn who the leaker was. The FBI found that the documents bore folding marks which suggested the documents had been printed and later carried outside the facility.
An internal investigation found that six people printed the material with one of them being Winner. However, of the six individuals only Winner had contacted The Intercept.
On Saturday, the former contractor admitted to the feds that she printed the classified intelligence and e-mailed it to the media.
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