Reality Leigh Winner (born December 4, 1991) is a former American intelligence specialist. On June 3, 2017, while employed by military contractor Pluribus International Corporation, Winner was arrested on suspicion of leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections to the news website The Intercept. The report suggested that Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier. Denied bond, Winner is being held at the Lincoln County Jail in Lincolnton, Georgia.
Winner served in the United States Air Force from 2010 to 2016, achieving the rank of senior airman with the 94th Intelligence Squadron. She worked as a cryptologic linguist, and is fluent in Persian language and Dari, its dialect spoken in Afghanistan, as well as Pashto. Winner was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Winner was hired by Pluribus International Corporation, a firm that provides contracting services to the National Security Agency. On February 13, 2017, Pluribus assigned her to work at a military base in Augusta, Georgia. Winner was employed by Pluribus at the time of her arrest for unauthorized disclosure of classified documents.
Intelligence report leak and arrest
Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017. The U.S. Department of Justice announced news of her arrest on June 5, shortly after The Intercept published an article describing Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, based on classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked to them anonymously.
The Intercept had contacted the NSA on May 30 and sent copies of the documents to the agency, in order to confirm their veracity. The NSA notified the FBI about the situation on June 1. The FBI realized the documents had been printed out because the PDF copies sent by The Intercept "appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space". Next, the NSA did an internal audit, confirming that Winner was one of six workers who had accessed the particular documents on its classified system, but only Winner's computer had been in contact with The Intercept using a personal email account. On June 3, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Winner's electronic devices, and she was arrested.
In an 'Affidavit in Support of Application for Arrest Warrant' dated July 5, 2017, FBI special agent Justin C. Garrick stated:
On June 3, 2017, your affiant spoke to WINNER at her home in Augusta, Georgia. 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.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. CONCLUSION
Your affiant submits that the facts set forth in this affidavit establish probable cause to believe WINNER committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 793(e). Therefore, your affiant respectfully requests this Court issue an arrest warrant for WINNER.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on the public to support Winner, offering a $10,000 reward for information about a reporter for The Intercept who had allegedly helped the U.S. government identify Winner as the leaker. Assange wrote on Twitter that "Winner is no Clapper or Petraeus with 'elite immunity'. She's a young woman against the wall for talking to the press."
On June 8, 2017, Winner pleaded not guilty to "willful retention and transmission of national defense information", and was denied bail. Prosecutors alleged she may have been involved in other leaks of classified information, and that she might try to flee the country if released. The U.S. Justice Department lawyers also argued that her defense team should not be allowed to discuss any classified information, even if it was in news reports published by the media.
On August 29, 2017, Winner's attorneys filed a motion in U.S. District Court to suppress her statements to law enforcement, arguing that Winner was not read her Miranda rights before being interrogated by the FBI on June 3.