A 25-year-old federal contractor was criminally charged Monday in connection with leaking classified information to a news organization — marking the first leak prosecution under the Trump administration.
Reality Leigh Winner, of Augusta, Georgia, was arrested over the weekend after prosecutors said she printed a copy of a classified report and mailed it to an online news outlet, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Court documents filed in the case do not identify the outlet or describe the type of information leaked. But the details of the case appear to correspond to information included in an article published Monday afternoon by the Intercept. The article relies on an anonymously-provided National Security Agency document to detail Russian attempts to hack U.S. voting systems in the days before the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Justice Department, Ms. Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation and held top-secret security clearance. She began working at the government facility in Georgia from which the classified document was taken in February.
Authorities said she printed the classified document that was taken on May 9 and later mailed it to a news organization.
Leaks have plagued the Trump administration in its first few months and included everything from details about intercepted phone calls between former national security advisor Michael Flynn and a Russian diplomat to the name of the man who detonated a suicide bomb outside a Manchester, England pop concert.
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But the charges against Ms. Winner mark the first leak prosecution under the administration thus far.
“Exceptional law enforcement efforts allowed us quickly to identify and arrest the defendant,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “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.”
Documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia state that investigators were able to track the leaked document back to Ms. Winner as the news outlet attempted to verify the authenticity of the information. The news outlet shared a copy of the leaked report, dated May 5, with the government agency from which it was taken. The copy appeared to have a crease, which investigators believed indicated that the document “had been printed and hand-carried out of a secure space.”
An internal audit found only six employees had printed the document, and only one of those employees had been in contact with the news outlet in question, the complaint states.
Confronted by investigators over the weekend, authorities said Ms. Winner admitted to printing the document and providing it to a news outlet.
She is charged with one count of gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information.
The Associated Press reported that Ms. Winner’s attorney, Titus Thomas Nichols, declined to confirm whether she is accused of leaking an NSA report received by The Intercept. He also declined to name the federal agency for which Ms. 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,” Mr. Nichols told the AP. “She is a very good person. All this craziness has happened all of a sudden.”
Betsy Reed, editor of the Intercept, said the NSA document was provided anonymously.
“The Intercept has no knowledge of the identity of the source,” she said.