Prosecutors claim that a National Security Agency contractor has leaked a classified file showing details of Russia hacking voting vendors and breaching the local system.
The federal contractor had been joking with her sister that Moscow’s attempts at impacting the United States presidential election could be beneficial to her, as she was an avid weightlifter.
This happened about three days before the presidential elections in the U.S. last year in November.
Joke Turns Serious
Reality Winner, an NSA contractor, had posted on Facebook that when the U.S. would become the U.S. of the Russian Federation, the national sport would be Olympic lifting. As a weightlifter herself, she would stand to benefit from this, she claimed jokingly.
Seven months after this, Winner called her family and told them that the Russian hacking story had put her in serious trouble.
Alleged Leaker of Hacking Files
The contractor has now been charged with turning over to news media the secret file related to Russian hacking. This is the first arrest of a leaker made by the new Trump administration.
Winner is 25 years old and hails from Augusta, Georgia. She was arrested earlier this month. Based on the affidavit, Winner admitted that she had leaked the document about the hacking and turned it over to an online media outlet.
She has been charged with violation of the Espionage Act.
Russia Hacking and Access to Voting Data
The affidavit has not named the document or the news organization.
However, the arrest announcement was made a few hours after an NSA analysis statement, published by The Intercept, said that Russia had made a hacking attempt and had been able to access a tech company based in the U.S. that works with voters’ data.
Before publishing the news, The Intercept contacted both the NSA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence regarding the leaked document. Both these agencies requested the news outlet to not publish the document containing details of the hacking.
FBI’s Statements About Leak and Hacking
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Winner was working in a federal facility in Georgia that was part of Pluribus International, an Alexandria, Virginia-based intelligence firm.
The government facility works with several intelligence agencies, as well as military entities. The leaked document was classified and dated May 5.
Winner had printed it four days later on May 9, according to the FBI. Only six people had managed to print this leaked document along with Winner.
Winner admitted that she had accessed the document containing the hacking details and had mailed it to the news outlet, according to a statement in the affidavit made by FBI agent Justin Garrick. However, Titus Thomas Nichols, who is her attorney, has not confirmed her accusation in connection with the leaked NSA document that was received by The Intercept.
He has also declined to mention the name of the federal agency for which Winner was working.
About the Leaked Document
According to this document connected with the hacking, the military intelligence of Russia had made a cyber attack on an elections supplier in the U.S., targeting over 100 local election officers a few weeks before the presidential elections last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his government had anything to do with the hacking connected with the U.S. elections, though he admitted that some patriotic freelancers from the country could have led such a hacking attack.
President Trump has been fuming about these leaks that are connected with a Russian hacking, due to the investigations about someone in his party who might have colluded with Russia in this undertaking.
In a thread of tweets he posted in February, Trump wrote that the FBI is not able to halt NSA leakers and classified documents are being handed over to the press, and this could have a damaging effect on the country.
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