Bail Denied to Alleged NSA Leaker

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Hacker wearing anonymous mask.
Reality Winner, an alleged NSA leaker, has for the second time been denied bail by a U.S. court.

Alleged National Security Agency leaker Reality Winner was once again denied bail by federal judge Brian Epps after the case prosecutors cautioned that she might still have classified secrets to release—inclusive of what is only accessible to her as stored in her mind.

Reality Winner, now 25, pleaded not guilty to the count of “willful retention and transmission of national defense information” in a detention hearing case in Augusta, Georgia.

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On this occasion the magistrate, Epps, cited several reasons for his decision, including Winner’s proclaimed “hate” for America together with her supposed admiration for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, of which he noted as factors that made Winner a severe threat.

In his statement, the judge reiterated his opinion that in her words and actions, the suspect had painted a distressing self-portrait of an American with a vast range of experience working for the federal government but who loathes the nation and wishes to damage national security.

And her access to essential and classified information did nothing but worsen it.

What’s more, Epps also contended that there was no “combination of conditions” which could guarantee societal safety since she presented a current risk to the security of the nation.

Finally, he added that considering Winner’s previous access to information, there was also the risk of more potential leaks of classified information acquired in her tenure both at the National Security Agency and in the Air Force.

The leaked document in contention was the foundation of a report by journalists at The Intercept on cyber attacks performed by hackers from the Russian government against a U.S. voting software system just before last year’s presidential elections.

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Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the suspect had been intercepted and arrested a few days before this story was published later on June 5 of this year.

According to the criminal complaint, Winner allegedly admitted to authorities (Federal Bureau of Investigation agents) that she had printed out an exclusive classified report and subsequently mailed it to a media outlet.

The leak was highlighted again by the U.S. Assistant Attorney Jennifer Solari, who confirmed that Winner had not only admitted to sending the information to her chosen media outlet but had also commented on having had an underwhelming offer from WikiLeaks.

Hacker on computer LapTop.
Reality Winner could serve a 10-year prison sentence and a fine equal to $250,000.

Prosecutors were also quick to mention that in one of Winner’s recorded phone conversations with her mother while she was in police custody, she referred to the “documents” she leaked as plural.

According to Solari, this was adequate reason to believe that Winner was in possession of more classified information she could later leak.

But later it came to light that Solari had been lying about this claim. In an email to Winner’s attorneys, she admitted that only one document was mentioned in the phone call with Winner’s mother.

Authorities are assessing several electronic devices that were seized from Winner’s house including a tablet, four cell phones, two laptops, as well as two spiral-bound notebooks.

Prosecutors further claim that they found writings in one of her books listing several Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and another stating that she wished to bring down the White House.

Before her role as an accredited intelligence contractor, Winner worked in the Air Force for six years where she served Americans conducting various field missions with real-time translation: She can speak Dari, Pashto and Farsi. She later worked at the NSA for four years.

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In their submission, the prosecutors also claim that during her time in the Air Force, one of Winner’s internet searches in her office computer was about whether top secret computers can detect an inserted flash drive.

In their plea for bail, Winner’s team of lawyers referenced some previous related cases and their subsequent verdicts.

One was Bryan Nishimura’s case, a former reservist in the Navy who moved classified material to his house from Afghanistan, and David Petraeus, a former Central Intelligence Agency director who mishandled and subsequently disclosed secret information to his then biographer, among others.

Nonetheless, according to the magistrate who dismissed the bail petition, both reference cases were then only charged with typical misdemeanors.

If found guilty, Reality Winner could serve a 10-year prison sentence and a fine equal to $250,000.

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