DOJ charges federal contractor with leaking classified information to the media

The Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against a government contractor accused of leaking classified information to the news media. A DOJ press release says the name of the alleged leaker is Reality Leigh Winner. Winner, who was arrested at her home on June 3rd, is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation who held a Top Secret clearance. The criminal complaint in the case offers details on how the government came to hold Winner responsible for the leak. Amazingly, they figured it out based on a crease in the paper [emphasis added]:

On June I, 2017, the FBI was notified by the U.S. Government Agency that the U.S. Government Agency had been contacted by the News Outlet on May 30, 2017, regarding an upcoming story. The News Outlet informed the U.S. Government Agency that it was in possession of what it believed to be a classified document authored by the U.S. Government Agency. The News Outlet provided the U.S. Government Agency with a copy of this document. Subsequent analysis by the U.S. Government Agency confirmed that the document in the News Outlet’s possession is the intelligence reporting. The intelligence reporting is classified at the Top Secret level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security, and is marked as such. The U.S. Government Agency has since confirmed that the reporting contains information that was classified at that level at the time that the reporting was published on or about May 5, 2017, and that such information currently remains classified at that level.

The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.

The U.S. Government Agency conducted an internal audit to determine who accessed the intelligence reporting since its publication. The U.S. Government Agency determined that six individuals printed this reporting. WINNER was one of these six individuals. A further audit of the six individuals’ desk computers revealed that WINNER had e-mail contact with the News Outlet. The audit did not reveal that any of the other individuals had e-mail contact with the News Outlet.

The complaint goes on to say that Winner admitted printing the document, taking it home and mailing it to the “News Outlet.” The outlet in question is not named by the DOJ but Politico’s Eric Geller noted on Twitter that the date of the leaked document mentioned in the complaint (5/5/17) matches the date of an NSA document that was published in a story at the Intercept today about Russian spear-phishing attacks (Allahpundit wrote about the story earlier today.) From the Intercept story [Emphasis added]:

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

And this paragraph must have been tough for the Intercept given their tendency to defend Russia:

This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.

Announcing the charges within an hour or so of the publication of the Intercept story based on the leaked document can’t be accidental. In fact, the timeline suggests that from the moment the FBI learned of the leak, Winner was in custody two days later. Hopefully, that message gets back to other would-be leakers of Top Secret information.