The Facebook page of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner was filled Tuesday with predictions from strangers about the indignities awaiting her behind bars.
“Hope you enjoy prison,” wrote one detractor. “At least it will be federal not state.”
Ms. Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran, environmentalist and opponent of President Trump, is accused of leaking a classified government report to an online news site.
While the Justice Department didn’t address her motives in its criminal complaint, Ms. Winner’s social media account contains numerous references to environmental activism and support for liberal Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
She refers to Mr. Trump in one post as “a soulless ginger orangutan.”
Prosecutions for leaking government secrets are relatively rare, but they increased dramatically during the Obama administration, with at least eight cases. Before President Obama took office in 2009, the government had prosecuted only three such cases since the Espionage Act was enacted in 1917.
Many observers expect such investigations to expand under Mr. Trump, who has accused Obama holdovers in the bureaucracy of leaking information to undermine his presidency.
“We’ve seen prosecutions ramp up under the Obama administration,” said Dana Gold, an official at the Government Accountability Project, which advocates for whistleblowers.
“The rhetoric around intelligence disclosures has only continued under the new administration, so prosecutions or threats of prosecutions certainly happen. From what I’ve seen of the evidence in this case, based on the Espionage Act, it seems like a compelling case that classified information was disclosed,” she said.
The president has been railing against leaks since before his inauguration and has promised a crackdown. The White House wouldn’t comment on Ms. Winner’s case Tuesday but said in general that Mr. Trump is concerned about loose lips.
“You’ve heard the president very clearly talk about the concern that he has about unauthorized disclosures of classified and sensitive information and the threat that they can pose to national security,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “I think it is important to note that any disclosure of classified or sensitive information clearly threatens our national security.”
Ms. Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corp., where she had worked since February with a top-secret clearance at a federal facility in Georgia.
She is accused of leaking a classified intelligence report with “top secret level” information. The Justice Department said the file contained classified defense information from an intelligence community agency.
The charges were announced soon after The Intercept published details of a National Security Agency report on Russian hacking before the November presidential election.
The Justice Department said Ms. Winner admitted to printing a classified intelligence document despite not having a “need to know” and with knowledge that the report was classified. The criminal complaint also says she admitted to taking the report from her office space and mailing it to The Intercept.
Judging from her social media posts, the blond young woman enjoys posting photographs of her pets, weightlifting and sharing information about the environment from sources allied with liberal figures such as Mr. Sanders and former Vice President Al Gore.
She has promoted articles in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which Mr. Trump has supported.
In February, before Mr. Trump took action to move forward with the Dakota Access pipeline, Ms. Winner wrote on Facebook: “The White House shut down their phone lines. There have been protests for months, at both the drilling site and outside the White House. I’m losing my mind. If you voted for this piece of s—-, explain this. He’s lying. He’s blatantly lying and the second largest supply of freshwater in the country is now at risk. #NoDAPL #NeverMyPresident #Resist.”
Four months ago, she wrote on her Facebook page: “Repeat after me: In the United States of America, in the year 2017, access to clean, fresh water is not a right, but a privilege based off of one’s socio-economic status.”
Before the presidential election, Ms. Winner wrote, “On a positive note, this Tuesday when we become the United States of the Russian Federation, Olympic lifting will be the national sport.”
She also wrote in March that global warming is “the single greatest threat we face.”
“Not one person alive under the age 27 has lived through a cooler than average month,” she said. “The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is going to reach 409 parts per million this year, increasing at a rate twice as fast as predicted. If its concentration keeps rising at this rate, it will double compared with pre-industrial times well before the end of the century. IMHO, this issue is a wee bit more pressing than jobs or even health care.”
Many of her posts were more mundane. She wrote in March of her weightlifting abilities: “If my thighs were as big as Beyonce’s, I could probably add 60-70 lbs to my back squat.”
The Project on Government Oversight said the prosecution of Ms. Winner offers “a number of lessons and considerations for sources and journalists who seek to anonymously disclose information.”
“In particular, sources who want to make an anonymous disclosure of information should avoid making contact via government phones, email or computers,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian.
Ms. Gold said the case “raises serious issues about the lack of protections for intelligence employees, either contractors or within the federal system, to blow the whistle.”
“There are no mechanisms for an intelligence contractor to use internal channels to make disclosures of classified information, even if those disclosures reveal gross illegality,” she said, adding that she believes fear of reprisals are driving many leakers to the media since Mr. Trump became president.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who faces charges of revealing classified information during the Obama administration about government surveillance programs, is still a fugitive from justice in Russia.