Crime

25-year-old NSA leaker: “I want to burn the White House down”

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25-year-old National Security Agency contractor Reality Leigh Winner is  accused of leaking classified information about Russian hacking to the media. In notes confiscated from her home during a raid, federal prosecutors said in court Thursday that Winner wrote she wanted to “burn the White House down.”

Winner was arrested at her Georgia home on June 3 and charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news agency. She pleaded not guilty to a charge of “willful retention and transmission of national defense information” Thursday in federal court in Augusta, Georgia.

Winner — a contractor with top-secret clearance — allegedly leaked a classified report about Russian election interference to the online news agency The Intercept. According to the Department of Justice , she printed and removed the classified information back on May 9, then mailed it a few days later.

Winner was working at an NSA outpost at the time, and was technically employed by a government contractor called Pluribus International Corporation.

ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV reported federal prosecutors said in court that Winner told a federal agent Saturday she purposely accessed the information, hoping that someone would have leaked it already.

Prosecutors said they seized handwritten notes that Winner wrote in several languages from her home during a raid, including one that said:

“I want to burn the White House down.”

Other notes detailed how Winner allegedly planned to make a trip Afghanistan in the summer.

Billie Winner-Davis and her husband Gary Davis, parents of National Security Agency leaker Reality Leigh Winner, arrive at the US District Courthouse in Augusta, Georgia, June 8, 2017.

Winner’s mother and stepfather along with a friend testified in court, and Winner allegedly told her mother that she needed to “go nuclear with the press” if she didn’t get bond because that’s how Chelsea Manning got out. Winner’s mother told prosecutors that was true.

Earlier this week, Winner’s mother and stepfather told the ABC in Atlanta that she is an Air Force veteran, and she is a patriot. Her mother saying:

“There’s so many ugly things out there. She doesn’t deserve that. I just want her to be treated fairly. If she did something wrong, yes, pay for it, but I don’t want her out there like, making a case on her. What am I trying to say? Hanging her out (to dry), you know?”

 

Winner’s request for bond was denied by a federal judge.

Winner is now the first person to be jailed by the Trump administration for her allegedly leaking classified information.

After Winner was arrested, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said:

“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government. People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”

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