The Justice Department filed charges on Monday against a 25-year-old woman accused of stealing Top Secret information and providing it to an online news outlet.
Reality Leigh Winner is accused in the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia, of “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet,” the Justice Department said.
Winner has worked for Pluribus International since Feb. 13, according to the complaint. She held a Top Secret clearance.
On May 9, “Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it,” the complaint says.
She then transmitted the information through mail to an online news outlet several days later.
The news outlet is not revealed in the complaint. Nor is the intelligence community agency that Pluribus International contracts with.
Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. She was interviewed there on Saturday and acknowledged that “she intentionally identified and printed “the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a ‘need to know,’ and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified.”
“Winner further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents,” the complaint reads.
The U.S. agency, which is unnamed in the complaint, notified the FBI of the breach on June 1. The news outlet to which Winner provided the information contacted the agency the day before and said that it was in possession of documents it believed were authored by the agency.
The news outlet said that it planned to publish an article based on the documents.
The federal complaint then states that the news outlet published the information on May 5. That appears to be an error since the news outlet obtained the information well after that date.
If the date of publication is June 5, the news article in reference could be one published by The Intercept based on a stolen NSA document containing Top Secret information about Russia’s attempts to hack into voter registration systems prior to the election last November.
The complaint reveals how the U.S. agency determined that Winner stole the documents.
The documents shared by the news outlet “appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.”
The agency conducted an internal audit and determined that six individuals had printed the report, one of them being Winner.
“A further audit of the six individuals’ desk computers revealed that WINNER had e-mail contact with the News Outlet. The audit did not reveal that any of the other individuals had e-mail contact with the News Outlet,” the complaint states.