Shortly after the Intercept published a story Monday afternoon—based on a leaked internal National Security Agency report—that Russian intelligence attempted to hack voter registration officials days before the 2016 election, the Department of Justice announced it had arrested and charged a 25-year-old federal contractor in Georgia with removing the classified information and mailing it to the online news outlet. According to a DOJ release, the FBI arrested Reality Leigh Winner, a contractor with top-secret security clearance at Pluribus International Corp., at her home in Augusta, Georgia, on Saturday.
From the DOJ:
[Winner] has been employed at the [government] facility [in Georgia] since on or about February 13, and has held a Top Secret clearance during that time. 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. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet. Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. According to the complaint, Winner agreed to talk with agents during the execution of the warrant. During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing 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 government learned of the leak after a reporter contacted an individual working at another government contractor seeking an opinion about the document. That person then contacted authorities, sparking the investigation,” according to the Washington Post. “Inside the government, officials scrambled to determine who had recently printed out that document. A search identified six employees who printed it out, including Winner. Authorities zeroed in on Winner because she was the only one who had been in email contact with the news organization, according to the affidavit.”