An intelligence contractor was charged with sending a classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the news media, the Justice Department announced Monday. This is the first criminal leak case under President Donald Trump, The New York Times reports.
The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, about an hour after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the apparent document, a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency.
According to the leaked document, two cyberattacks have been carried out by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — one in August against a company that sells voter registration-related software and another,a few days before the election, against 122 local election officials.
The Intercept said the NSA report had been submitted anonymously, but shortly after its article was published, the Justice Department said that the FBI had arrested Ms. Winner at her house in Augusta, Georgia on Saturday. It also said that Winner had confessed to an agent that she had printed out a May 5 intelligence file and mailed it to an online news outlet.
However, it was not immediately clear who is serving as the defense lawyer for Winner, who has been charged under the Espionage Act.
An accompanying FBI affidavit said she has worked for Pluribus International Corporation at a government facility in Georgia since February 13. While it did not identify the agency or the facility, the NSA uses Pluribus contractors and opened a branch facility in the suburbs outside Augusta in 2012.
The FBI affidavit said reporters for the news outlet, which it also did not name, had approached the NSA with questions for their story and provided a copy of the document in their possession. An analysis of the file showed it was a scan of a copy that had been creased or folded, the affidavit said, “suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space”.
The NSA’s auditing system showed that six people had printed out the report, including Ms. Winner. Investigators examined the computers of those six people and found that Ms. Winner had been in email contact with the news outlet, but the other five had not. In a statement, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, commended the operation.
“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”, Rosenstein said.
Espionage Act charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, although conventional leak cases have typically resulted in prison terms of one to three years.