This post was written by Connor Balough

The Justice Department announced charges Monday against a federal contractor with Top Secret security clearance, after she allegedly leaked classified information to an online media outlet.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia, is accused of “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet,” according to a federal complaint.
CNN is told by sources that the document Winner allegedly leaked is the same one used as the basis for the article published Monday by The Intercept, detailing a classified National Security Agency memo. The NSA report, dated May 5, provides details of a 2016 Russian military intelligence cyberattack on a US voting software supplier, though there is no evidence that any votes were affected by the hack.
A US official confirmed to CNN that The Intercept’s document is a genuine, classified NSA document.
US intelligence officials tell CNN that the information has not changed the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, which found: “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”
Prosecutors say when confronted with the allegations, Winner admitted to intentionally leaking the classified document — and she was arrested June 3 in Augusta, Georgia.
An internal audit revealed Winner was one of six people who printed the document, but the only one who had email contact with the news outlet, according to the complaint. It further states that the intelligence agency was subsequently contacted by the news outlet on May 30 regarding an upcoming story, saying it was in possession of what appeared to be a classified document.
The Intercept’s director of communications Vivian Siu told CNN the document was provided anonymously.
“As we reported in the story, the NSA document was provided to us anonymously. The Intercept has no knowledge of the identity of the source,” Siu 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,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement Monday.
Winner faces up to 10 years in prison for leaking classified information. Winner’s court-appointed attorney, Titus Nichols, said a detention hearing will take place on Thursday in Augusta, where the judge will determine whether to release her on bond. Winner did not enter a plea in her initial appearance Monday.
Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions slammed leaks in the wake of the Manchester attacks, saying: “We have already initiated appropriate steps to address these rampant leaks that undermine our national security.”
Winner’s mother said that her daughter is “touch and go” in an interview with CNN on Monday.
“I think she’s trying to be brave for me,” Billie Winner said. “I don’t think she’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”
She also said her daughter wasn’t especially political and had not ever praised past leakers like Edward Snowden, to her knowledge. “She’s never ever given me any kind of indication that she was in favor of that at all,” her mother said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” that people who leak classified information should face the full force of the law, but added that Americans need to know much more about alleged Russian attempts to influence the election.
“Somebody who leaks documents against laws has got to suffer the consequences” Kaine said. “But the American public is also entitled to know the degree to which Russia invaded the election to take the election away from American voters.”
Kaine noted he knew of no evidence that showed Russia affected machine voting totals and said he was referring to intelligence assessments that Russia had acted to influence the election.
In October 2016, CNN reported that federal investigators believe Russian hackers were behind cyberattacks on a contractor for Florida’s election system that may have exposed the personal data of Florida voters, according to US officials briefed on the probe. The hack of the Florida contractor came on the heels of hacks in Illinois, in which personal data of tens of thousands of voters may have been stolen, and one in Arizona, in which investigators believe the data of voters was likely exposed.
The October information appears to be part of what is contained in the new NSA document, but the document contains additional details.
Most significantly, as CNN reported at the time, and The Intercept also reports Monday based on the this document, that there is still no evidence any votes were affected by Russian hacking.

Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told The Daily Beast even after the DOJ announcement that her family still was not sure why Winner had been arrested.

“I don’t know what they’re alleging,” she said, asking for specifics from the DOJ’s press release. “What do you know?”

Winner-Davis said the allegations against her daughter were vague when they spoke Sunday.

“I don’t know who she might have sent it to,” she said. “[DOJ] were very vague. They said she mishandled and released documents that she shouldn’t have, but we had no idea what it pertained to or who.”

The most her daughter talked about was her pets.

“She called us yesterday night. She asked if we could help out with relocating her cat and dog,” Winner-Davis said.

Winner-Davis said her daughter never talked about her work, and her family did not know the specifics of her recently acquired job as a government contractor. Winner-Davis added that her daughter, while quiet about her job, was outspoken about her beliefs.

“She’s very passionate. Very passionate about her views and things like that, but she’s never to my knowledge been active in politics or any of that,” said Winner-Davis.

On Twitter, Reality Winner expressed frequent dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump’s policies and retweeted a joke about government leaks, as well as a tweet by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In recent months, she frequently tweeted at Trump. “have you ever even met an Iranian?” she responded to Trump when he tweeted that immigrants coming from seven Muslim-majority countries were “SO DANGEROUS.”

She tweeted “#RESISTANCE” after the U.S. Department of Agriculture began blacking out public information. Immediately after Trump’s election, she took to Twitter to voice her disappointment. “I listened to you daily, and your podcast kept me sane,” she wrote at the FiveThirtyEight podcast on Nov. 9, 2016. “What the heck #betrayed #disillusioned.” She tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ statement calling Trump racist and xenophobic immediately after.

On election night, she tweeted, “Well. People suck.”

Winner is a U.S. Air Force veteran. As a parting gift in November, she wrote, her colleagues gave her a signed and framed photograph of Anderson Cooper, which she showed off in a Facebook post.

“Thank you for your service,” her colleagues wrote on the picture.

It is unclear when Winner might be able to seek bond, her mother said.

“She has a hearing on Thursday about that,” Winner-Davis said.

Garrick’s affidavit indicates that Winner’s arrest was speedy—just a few weeks after she allegedly leaked the report—because she printed out the document and sent an email to The Intercept.

When reporters received the document in the mail, they asked for comment from the intelligence agency that produced it (presumably the National Security Agency, or NSA). And they showed the agency a copy of the document. The copy had visible creases, according to the affidavit, indicating someone printed it out before giving it to the reporters. Investigators found that only six people had printed the report. Of those six, only one had had contact with the news outlet that ultimately published it, according to the affidavit: Winner.

Garrick wrote that he went to Winner’s home in Augusta, Georgia, on June 3, and she acknowledged to him that she mailed the report to the media outlet.

Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer who frequently handles classified matters, told The Daily Beast that Winner is not a whistleblower.

“It is titillating for everyone with respect to political bent as to whether the elections were stolen, perhaps,” he said. “But it has absolutely nothing to do with any waste, fraud, abuse, or—more importantly—illegal U.S. government conduct to justify leaking it.”

Zaid added that Winner also likely would have faced charges under the previous administration and that her arrest doesn’t necessarily portend a crackdown on whistleblowers.

“I think the Obama administration would have prosecuted this same case without hesitation,” he said. “It’s not a partisan political prosecution. It is a case that upholds the lawful obligations that those who have access to classified information adhere to every single day.”

Patrick Toomey, an attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project, took a different view and said the arrest could be a cause for concern.

“Leaks to journalists occur every day, as they have for decades, and are a vital source of information for the public in our democracy,” he said. “It would be deeply troubling if this prosecution marked the beginning of a draconian crackdown on leaks to the press by the Trump administration.”

Classified leaks have rattled the Trump administration since before the president was inaugurated, and he has promised to find the leakers. Trump surrogates frequently refer to them as the “Deep State.” And political appointees at the Justice Department are eager to prosecute leakers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made numerous public comments about his support of leak prosecutions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein worked on the successful leak-related prosecution of James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the Obama administration set the precedent, prosecuting more leakers than all other administrations put together.

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