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Politics

Federal Contractor Named Reality Winner, 25, Accused of Leaking Russian Hacking Secrets to News Media

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Reality Leigh Winner
Facebook

A 25-year-old government contractor for a U.S. intelligence agency has been accused of sending classified material on Russian hacking to an online news outlet last month.

Federal authorities said in a criminal complaint obtained by CNN that Reality Leigh Winner — who worked as a contractor with the Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia — allegedly “[removed] classified material from a government facility and [mailed] it to a news outlet” around May 9.

She is charged with gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday.

Winner’s arrest came shortly before The Intercept published on Monday an alleged May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency that describes two cyberattacks carried out by Russian government hackers in an attempt to infiltrate U.S. voting systems a week before the 2016 presidential election.

The Intercept’s Sam Biddle noted on Twitter that “there’s nothing in the NSA report indicating the actual voting machines or vote tabulations were compromised.”

According to CNN, the document Winner is accused of leaking is the same one referenced in the Intercept‘s story.

According to the criminal complaint, Winner allegedly admitted to printing the document with the knowledge that it was classified before she mailed it to the news outlet.

“Winner further acknowledged that she was aware of the contents of the intelligence reporting and that she knew the contents of the reporting could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation,” the complaint alleges.

The Intercept‘s director of communications, Vivian Siu, told CNN the document was submitted anonymously and the outlet “has no knowledge of the identity of the source.”

Reality Winner
Lincoln County Sheriff's Office

Winner, who reportedly spent six years in the military and speaks Farsi and Pashtun, had been assigned to a U.S. government agency facility in Augusta, Georgia, since about Feb. 13, during which time she had top-secret security clearance, according to the complaint.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Winner’s mother told CNN that her daughter isn’t especially political and is struggling with the situation: “I think she’s trying to be brave for me. I don’t think she’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”

According to CNN, Winner’s attorney, Titus Nichols, said a detention hearing will take place on Thursday, where the judge will determine whether to release Winner on bond.

She did not enter a plea in her initial appearance Monday.