A federal contractor allegedly leaked classified information regarding a 2016 Russian military intelligence cyberattack was uncovered.
The alleged leaker accused of feeding a classified report to an online news site has a colorful history on social media that lays bare her political leanings as an environmentalist who wanted to “resist” President Trump.
The Justice Department announced charges on June 6 against Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia, reports CNN.
She was arrested at her home on June 3 by the FBI, said the Justice Department in a press release.
“On or about 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 press release summarizes. “Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, as quoted in the press release, said: “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.”
The online news outlet in question is The Intercept, which published an article on May 5 based on a classified National Security Agency memo it received, allegedly from Winner.
According to the article, the memo provides details of a 2016 Russian cyberattack on a U.S. voting software supplier, though there is no evidence that any votes were affected by the hack.
Winner was a linguist in the U.S. Air Force in Maryland who speaks Pashto, Farsi and Dari — the primary languages of Iran and Afghanistan.
A Twitter account reportedly used by Winner under the name “Sara Winners” featured several anti-Trump tweets, reports the Daily Mail. In response to President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, she reportedly tweeted at him: “Have you ever even met an Iranian?”
Said to be a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Winner reportedly took to Twitter after Trump won the election in November and expressed her frustration with the outcome. In addition, she is said to have retweeted a joke about government leaks.
Winner faces up to 10 years in prison for leaking classified information. “The law is very clear here. For a government employee or a contractor who has access to classified information to share it intentionally with someone who doesn’t have a security clearance, including a reporter, is a crime,” said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s senior legal analyst.
“She’s just been caught in the middle of something bigger than her,” argued her court-appointed attorney, Titus Nichols.
On Twitter, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on the public to support Winner, adding that the young woman is “accused of courage in trying to help us know.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help pay her legal costs.