An Augusta, Georgia woman charged with leaking U.S. secrets to a news outlet plans to plead guilty, a federal official confirmed Thursday.
The 26-year-old federal contractor was charged June, 2017 with leaking a top-secret NSA report, detailing how Russian military hackers targeted US voting systems just days before the election, to a media house.
Online court records show a change of plea hearing is scheduled Tuesday for former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ian Prior confirmed by email that Winner plans to plead guilty.
The docket shows a plea agreement was filed Thursday, but it isn’t publicly accessible.
Winner previously pleaded not guilty and has been in custody since her arrest.
Reality Winner faces 10 years in prison if she is convicted
The highly classified intelligence document, published last year June by The Intercept, describes how Russia managed to infiltrate America’s voting infrastructure using a spear-phishing email scheme that targeted local government officials and employees.
The document reportedly, believed to be the most detailed US government account of Russia’s interference to date, says these were calculated wave of cyberattacks that may have been even more far-reaching and devious than previously thought.
The DOJ investigators narrowed the leak to the media outlet, some have speculated to be ‘the Intercept’, down to Reality Leigh Winner, [photo], of Augusta, Ga. It was estimated that she had leaked the document a month earlier, possible early May, 2017.
She was arrested at her home, subsequently charged with removing and mailing classified materials to a news outlet, DOJ officials said.
Winner is a former Air Force linguist who speaks Arabic and Farsi and had a top-secret security clearance. She worked for the national security contractor Pluribus International at Fort Gordon in Georgia when she was charged in June 2017 with copying a classified U.S. report and mailing it to an unidentified news organization.
Authorities have not publicly described the document Winner is charged with leaking, nor have they identified the news organization that received it. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on the same day online news outlet The Intercept reported it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election.
The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner is charged with leaking.
Winner told feds I “Folded it in half and put it in my pantyhose,” but “I wasn’t trying to be Edward Snowden or anything,”
When she was arrested Winner told federal investigators that she stuffed a classified document into her pantyhose in a haphazard way that was not like “Edward Snowden or anything.”
According to Politico, Winner in an interview with federal authorities “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,” the affidavit says.
Detailing how she got it out, Winner said I, “Folded it in half and put it in my pantyhose,” the contractor said in June when asked how she smuggled the document out of a high-security facility.
She then mailed it ‘somewhere’, The recipient is redacted from the report, but it was published by The Intercept. Asked if she had contacted the recipient beforehand, Winner admitted the operation was not highly organized. “I wasn’t trying to be Edward Snowden or anything,” she said, according to the transcripts.
Details of a plea deal, if any, are not available, but she faces 10 years in prison if convicted of leaking the NSA report.