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Contractor is charged with leaking top-secret document about Russian hacking

A woman who worked as a records contractor for the federal government has been arrested on charges of turning over a secret document to a news organization, the first arrest of an alleged leaker by the Trump administration.

The woman, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, of Augusta, Ga., was arrested over the weekend, the Justice Department said Monday.

According to an affidavit, Winner admitted providing the document to a news organization. Although the document and the media company were not identified in the affidavit, the announcement of the arrest came just hours after the Intercept published a National Security Agency analysis that concluded that Russian hackers were able to penetrate an American technology company that works with voter data.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, of Augusta, Ga., was arrested over the weekend on charges of turning over a secret document to a news organization. (Inform)
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, of Augusta, Ga., was arrested over the weekend on charges of turning over a secret document to a news organization. (Inform)

The FBI said Winner went to work in February at a government facility in Georgia as an employee of Pluribus International, a firm based in Alexandria, Va., that does work for a number of intelligence and military agencies, according to its website.

The document, classified as top secret, was dated May 5; four days later, Winner printed it, the FBI said. An audit showed that just six people printed the document, including Winner, and that her work computer showed she emailed the news organization, the FBI said.

When agents showed up at her home, Winner admitted taking the report to her home and mailing it to the news organization, FBI Agent Justin Garrick wrote in the affidavit. She was charged with one count of violating the Espionage Act.

In its report, the Intercept said it received the NSA report anonymously and independently verified its authenticity. The NSA document was dated May 5, the same day as the one Winner was charged with copying.

The document says a cyberattack by Russian military intelligence penetrated one U.S. elections supplier and targeted more than 100 local election officials just weeks before last year’s election.

Winner's attorney, Titus Thomas Nichols, in an interview with the Associated Press declined to confirm that she was accused of leaking the NSA report received by the Intercept. He also declined to name the federal agency for which 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,” Nichols said. “She is a very good person. All this craziness has happened all of a sudden.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week denied that his government led an attack targeting U.S. elections, though he said the effort might have been led by “patriotic” Russian freelancers.

President Trump, meanwhile, has fumed about leaks related to Russian hacking and the investigation into whether anyone in his campaign colluded with the effort.

“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time,” he tweeted in February. “Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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