MS Risk Blog

US Government Contractor Arrested After NSA Leak Report

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A United States government contractor has been arrested on suspicion of leaking top-secret information to a news outlet.

According to officials, Reality Leagh Winner, 25, allegedly removed classified material from a federal site in the state of Georgia. The charges were announced shortly after news website The Intercept published a National Security Agency briefing about alleged Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election. The Trump administration has been seeking to fight leaks to the media.

According to the justice department, Ms Winner was arrested on 3 June. NBC News has reported that Ms Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation and had been employed at an NSA facility in Georgia since February. According to the network, the accused faces a count of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.” Ms Winner, who graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas in 2011, was caught after investigators noticed that the leaked document appeared to have been folded or creased. According to an FBI affidavit in support of the arrest warrant, that suggested that it had been “printed and then carried out of a secured space.” The indictment further disclosed that investigators then determined that Ms Winner was one of only six people to have printed the document. Examination of her email on her desk computer further revealed that she had exchanged emails with the news outlet. The affidavit states that when confronted, Ms Winner admitted to printing the report despite not possessing a “need-to-know” about its content and said that she was aware that the information “could be used to the injury of the US and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

The Intercept’s leaked document alleges that Moscow’s military intelligence services attempted cyber-attacks on at least one US voting software supplier just days before last November’s US Presidential election. It also accuses them of sending spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials, however there is no suggestion in the document that the hackers were successful. The NSA file in question was apparently marked for declassification not before May 2042. American intelligence agencies have accused the Kremlin of trying to interfere in the election in a bid to ensure that Donald Trump beat Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. Several congressional committees and the FBI are currently investigating the matter. President Trump however has repeatedly dismissed the story as “fake news,” arguing that the real scandal is how the allegations are being leaked to the media.