Alleged whistleblower arrested for leaking top secret information to media
The FBI made good on President Donald Trump’s repeated promise to “find the leakers” Monday, arresting and charging 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner with leaking classified documents to the media.
Until last week, Winner was an independent contractor for the national security firm Pluribus International Corporation and had top secret security clearance at an unnamed U.S. government facility in Georgia where she worked, according to the Justice Department’s federal criminal complaint. In May, she allegedly used that clearance to print and removed a top secret intelligence report from the agency, which she then sent it to an unspecified news outlet.
She was arrested at her home on Saturday and made an appearance in federal court in Augusta Monday, according to the DOJ.
While the criminal complaint doesn’t identify the government agency, the news outlet, or the report Winner allegedly leaked, it does reveal that the report was published May 5, 2017.
All evidence suggests the report was detailed in an article published Monday by The Intercept, detailing a top-secret, anonymously leaked National Security Agency document. That document, which details a Russian military intelligence cyberattack that was reportedly launched on U.S. voting software suppliers and local election officials just days before the 2016 presidential election, was reportedly published on May 5. BuzzFeed also reports an unnamed federal official confirmed the news outlet in question was The Intercept.
While the complaint doesn’t definitively outline how much the alleged cyberattack affected the outcome of the U.S. election, the document is, in the words of The Intercept, “the most detailed US. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.”
The federal agency Winner worked for first became aware of Winner’s alleged leak after being contacted by the news outlet for comment. (According to the Intercept, officials at the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence asked that the outlet not publish or write about the document, and asked for several redactions when informed that the Intercept planned to go ahead with its report.)
“As we reported in the story, the NSA document was provided to us anonymously,” Vivian Siu, the Intercept’s director of Communications, told VICE News in an email. “The Intercept has no knowledge of the identity of the source.”
But the agency, after noticing that the top secret document was creased, realized that it had likely been printed and carried out by hand and checked to see which agency employees had printed the document or emailed with the news outlet.
According to the complaint, only Winner, who allegedly confessed on June 3, fit the bill.
Trump has long complained about leaks and whistleblowers riddling his administration, and has repeatedly taken to his favorite medium, Twitter, to condemn the intelligence community’s seeming inability to staunch the flow of information out of the administration.
I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement announcing the charges against Winner. “People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”
Ironically, Trump himself recently reportedly leaked classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, though the act was likely not illegal — the president has broad powers to declassify information.