Federal contractor arrested and charged with leaking classified documents to The Intercept

Posted June 06, 2017

A top secret National Security Agency document shows Russian military intelligence tried to hack into USA voter registration systems before last year's election, an online news service reports. The document, dated May 5, offered new insight into the U.S. government's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election-namely that the hackers "focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process".

But also on Monday, the Justice Department announced it had charged a government contractor in Georgia with leaking a classified report containing "Top Secret level" information to an online news organization.

While the contents of the document, and the news organization it went to, were not specified in Winner's court paperwork, by a curious coincidence The Intercept published on Monday a leaked report, dated May 5, into Russian election hacking.

On August 24 of previous year, Russian hackers sent emails created to look like they were from Google to employees of an unnamed USA election software company. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against victor were directly tied to it. A US intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

The hackers are believed to have then used data from that operation to create a new email account to launch a spear-phishing campaign targeting US local government organizations, the document said. "The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed USA government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet to come to light", the website wrote. The complaint states an internal audit showed that victor was one of six people who printed the document, but she was the only one who had email contact with the news outlet. "Reality Leigh Winner is accused of sharing documents with an American media outlet about a topic of public concern, yet the Department of Justice is charging Winner under the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old statute intended for use against spies and saboteurs working on behalf of foreign governments".

Winner's attorney, Titus Nichols, said she has no criminal history and is "a very good person". Federal authorities said she printed out a copy of the report and mailed it to The Intercept. Approximately a few days later, victor unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.

"I think she's trying to be fearless for me", Billie Winner said. Investigation into the six people involved in printing that document revealed victor had been in contact with The Intercept around the time it changed hands.

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.