NSA contractor, 25, arrested for allegedly leaking classified government secrets

Reality Leigh Winner (Facebook).

Reality Leigh Winner, a federal contractor from Atlanta working for the National Security Administration (NSA), has been arrested for allegedly distributing classified defense information. According to The Atlantic, 25-year-old Winner is an employee of Pluribus International Corporation, a tech firm that provides defense and intelligence services to the federal government.

An FBI affidavit alleges that Winner “printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it.” A few days later, the affidavit states, Winner “transmitted the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”

In a search warrant application, federal investigators state that an unnamed defense contractor met with an unnamed reporter at an unnamed news outlet. When the reporter contacted the “intelligence community agency” to confirm the veracity of the documents, federal investigators launched an internal review of the leak.

The reporter had provided a copy of the leaked documents to the intelligence agency, according to The Daily Beast, and because the copy was visibly creased, investigators concluded that the documents had been printed. According to the affidavit, six individuals printed the documents in question, but only Winner had had contact with the media outlet.

The FBI has given few details about the agency, the outlet, and the nature of the documents, but some have speculated that the charges pertain to an article published in the The Intercept, which reveals the specifics of an NSA report on Russian hacking efforts in the days leading up to the election.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Winner’s mother said she was befuddled by the charges leveled against her daughter. “I don’t know who she might have sent [the documents] to,” Billie Winner Davis said. “[DOJ] were very vague. They said she mishandled and released documents that she shouldn’t have, but we had no idea what it pertained to or who.”

President Trump has been plagued by leaks since the start of his presidency, and has written multiple tweets vowing to root out “low-life leakers” and made on the record comments that leakers would be punished. But Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer, told the Beast that the charges against Winner are not surprising.

“I think the Obama administration would have prosecuted this same case without hesitation,” he said. “It’s not a partisan political prosecution. It is a case that upholds the lawful obligations that those who have access to classified information adhere to every single day.” In an interview with ABC News, Steve Gomez, a former FBI special agent, said the leak was an example of “amateur hour” for both the leaker, who was sloppy in the way the materials were given to reporters, and the reporters who broke the story, whom he says compromised the identity of their source. For more on the story, watch the video below.

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