The federal government has made its first arrest in connection to the alleged Russian hacking the 2016 Presidential Election.
The Justice Department has charged Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old Georgia intelligence contractor, with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.
The complaint did not link the charges with the story, but a senior federal official confirmed to NBC News that Winner is the accused leaker of the document published by the Intercept. The NSA has a large facility in Georgia. The complaint says she admitted to printing out the document and mailing it to the news outlet.
It adds that the government found evidence that Winner “had email contact” with the news outlet, and that Winner was one of just six individuals who had viewed the intelligence reporting since the U.S. government published it internally.
Winner was arrested at her Georgia home by the FBI on Saturday, June 3. She faces a charge of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.”
She was a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation and had been employed at the facility since February. She held a top secret clearance.
However, Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told The Daily Beast that she was shocked to learn about her daughter’s arrest:
‘I don’t know what they’re alleging. I don’t know who she might have sent it to. [DOJ] were very vague. They said she mishandled and released documents that she shouldn’t have, but we had no idea what it pertained to or who.’
Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer who frequently handles classified matters, said that Winner is not a whistleblower.
“It is titillating for everyone with respect to political bent as to whether the elections were stolen, perhaps,” he said. “But it has absolutely nothing to do with any waste, fraud, abuse, or—more importantly—illegal U.S. government conduct to justify leaking it.”
Zaid also said that Winner also likely would have faced charges under the previous administration.