06 June, 2017
The charges were announced shortly after The Intercept published a report, based on a highly classified intelligence report, that alleged Russian military intelligence carried out a cyberattack against a US voting software supplier. Victor 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. The NSA did not draw any conclusions on whether the effort had any effect on the election's outcome, according to The Intercept.
The NSA report, dated May 5, says Russian military intelligence attacked a USA voting software company and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials at the end of October or beginning of November. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against victor were directly tied to it.
Victor is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a USA government agency facility in Georgia.
Winner, 25, has worked at the government facility since February and has held a top secret clearance. It further states that the intelligence agency was subsequently contacted by the news outlet on May 30 regarding an upcoming story, saying it was in possession of what appeared to be a classified document.
"Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple USA state or local electoral boards", the NSA concluded, citing information "that became available in April 2017".
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The Intercept said that the agency, Washington's most important signals intelligence body, sought first to dissuade them from publishing it, and then requested redactions. Twenty-five-year-old Reality Leigh Winner of Augusta, Georgia was arrested at her home on Saturday and officially charged during a court appearance on Monday, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. The report is dated May 5, and one part says it was based on information that became available in April.
"Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation's security and undermines public faith in government", Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement announcing the charges against victor.
"My client has no (criminal) history, so it's not as if she has a pattern of having done anything like this before", Nichols said in a phone interview Monday.
FBI special agent Justin Garrick told a federal court that victor - a cross-fit fan who graduated high school in 2011 and was in the US Air Force apparently as a linguist - confessed to reading and printing out the document, despite having no clearance to do so. Investigators determined she was one of only six individuals to print the document in question and that she had exchanged emails with the news outlet, according to the indictment. During that conversation, victor 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.
Asked if victor had confessed, Nichols said, "If there is a confession, the government has not shown it to me". A further audit of the six individuals' desk computers revealed that victor had email contact with the news outlet.