A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news organization.
Reality Leigh Winner was accused of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information — the first criminal charge filed in a leak investigation during the Trump administration.
Winner was arrested Saturday and the case was revealed Monday, shortly after the website the Intercept posted a redacted version of a U.S. intelligence document describing Russian government efforts to use hacking techniques against employees of a company that provides technical support to states’ voting agencies.
Documents filed in federal court against Winner in Georgia did not identify the news outlet or the documentin question, although both the Intercept and the court papers say it the document in question was dated May 5. A person familiar with the case said the charges stem from the document given to the Intercept.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said investigators’ fast work “allowed us quickly to identify and arrest the defendant. 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.”
Winner’s lawyer, Titus T. Nichols, said he had not seen the evidence in the case, so he could not discuss the specific accusations. He said his client has served in the Air Force for six years, including a recent assignment at Fort Meade, Md., home of the NSA.
According to court documents, Winner had a top-security clearance as an active-duty member of the Air Force from January 2013 until February of this year, when she began working for Pluribus International, a government contractor, at a facility in Georgia.
Winner remains in jail pending a detention hearing later this week, the lawyer said, adding that he expects the government will seek to keep her behind bars pending trial. Nichols said his client should be released.
“She has no criminal history; it’s not as if she’s a threat to anyone,’’ he said.