The Georgia intelligence contractor accused of leaking Top Secret documents from the National Security Agency told federal authorities she smuggled classified documents out of the office by stuffing them in her pantyhose.
Reality Leigh Winner, a decorated former US Air Force linguist who held Top Secret government clearance was asked by an FBI agent about how she managed to get the documents out of the agency’s Augusta, Georgia, office.
‘I folded it in half in my pantyhose,’ she responded, citing a transcript filed by prosecutors Wednesday and seen by Politico.
Court records show, Reality Winner, 25, who is charged with leaking U.S. secrets told FBI agents she was frustrated with her job as a government contractor when she tucked a classified report into her pantyhose and smuggled it out of a National Security Agency office
Reality Leigh Winner, a decorated former US Air Force linguist who held Top Secret government clearance, is accused of leaking NSA intelligence
She told FBI agents she smuggled the document out of a high security intelligence facility in her pantyhose
The details appear in a transcript federal prosecutors filed in court Wednesday that detail the interrogation of 25-year-old by the FBI as they carried out a search warrant at her home in June.
Prosecutors included the 78-page transcript of Reality Winner’s interview with FBI agents in a court filing Wednesday urging a judge to keep her jailed until her trial.
The transcript shows Winner confessed to FBI agents, telling them: ‘Yeah, I screwed up royally.’
Winner worked as a government contractor in Augusta until June, when she was charged with copying a classified report and mailing it to an online news organization.
This latest transcript also gives new details on Winner’s explanation for why she allegedly took a copy of the document from the NSA facility.
She appears to say she believed the contents of the report which described Russian cyberattacks aimed at U.S. voter registration databases and that it should be in the public debate.
‘I saw the article and was like, I don’t understand why this isn’t a thing,’ she said. ‘It made me very mad … I guess I just didn’t care about myself at that point. … Yeah, I screwed up royally,’ she said.
When she wasn’t posting about politics, Winner’s social media paints her as something of a loner whose main focus was on bodybuilding
Arrested: The government has charged Reality Leigh Winner (pictured), 25, a Georgia intelligence contractor, with passing secret documents to the media
U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps has scheduled a hearing Friday to reconsider releasing Winner on bond.
He ordered her jailed in June after prosecutors said Winner may have taken more than a single classified report.
They said Winner had inserted a portable hard drive into a top-secret Air Force computer before she left the military last year.
Winner’s defense lawyers argued in a court filing Saturday that prosecutors haven’t accused Winner of any additional crimes more than three months later.
They noted several other cases in which defendants accused of leaking multiple secret documents were freed on pre-trial bonds.
She is the first person to have charges leveled against her in connection with leaks related to Russian election hacking
Winner was employed by contractor Pluribus International Corporation in February, and had been working with access to top secret documents since then
Jennifer Solari, an assistant U.S. attorney, warned the judge in June that investigators hadn’t found the portable hard drive that Winner allegedly plugged into an Air Force computer and didn’t know what might be on it.
Winner’s lawyers included an email from Solari in their latest court filing in which the prosecutor noted that she was mistaken when she previously told the judge that Winner was recorded in a jailhouse phone conversation saying: ‘Mom, those documents. I screwed up.’
Solari wrote that the recording shows that Winner actually told her mother: ‘I leaked a document.’
Defense attorneys wrote that if Winner is released, her mother in Kingsville, Texas, would move to Georgia to live with her and ensure that she complies with all bond conditions.
Authorities haven’t described the classified report Winner is accused of leaking or named the news outlet that received it. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on the same day the Intercept reported it had obtained a classified NSA report suggesting that Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election.
The Intercept story states that the documents raise the possibility that Russian-based hackers ‘may have breached at least some elements of the voting system,’ bringing the investigation of election interference to a new level.
Previous analyses by the intelligence community have stated that Russia was behind hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair in an effort to impact the election, but have not provided evidence of a successful campaign to affect the vote count or voter rolls.
The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner is charged with leaking.
An NSA document published by The Intercept reveals a Russian-backed effort to target local government officials and U.S. firms as part of the campaign
The decorated former US Air Force linguist held Top Secret government clearance
During the run up to presidential election, Winner – a keen bodybuilder and fitness fanatic – had joked about the Kremlin’s influence, saying: ‘On a positive note, this Tuesday when we become the United States of the Russian Federation, Olympic lifting will be the national sport.’
After Trump declared he’d defeated Hillary Clinton, the distraught 25-year-old wrote: ‘Well. People suck.’
The leaked documents seemed to show Russia carried out cyber attacks on companies which produce software used during elections.
But the NSA were quickly able to link the leak back to Winner after The Intercept presented them with stolen documents for verification.
NSA officers were able to determine, by analyzing creases in the pages and a secret series of ‘tracking dots’ on the paper, that they had been printed at the NSA’s Augusta, Georgia offices.
Only six people had access to those printers so from there, it was simply a case of narrowing down the suspects. After agents found communication between Winner and the new site, she was arrested.
Winner is now facing up to ten years in jail if found guilty on charged of removing classified material from a government facility.
Winner’s case has divided opinion, with some branding her a ‘traitor’ but others hailing her as a hero.
It bares resemblance to the case of Chelsea Manning, a transgender US Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 for leaking nearly three-quarters of a million classified or sensitive military materials to Wikileaks.
She said at the time she’d been moved to release the secret information because she ‘believed I was going to help people’. She wanted to provide a real record of the realities of war, and give a human face to the casualties.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years at the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth but had her sentence commuted by then-President Obama to just seven years, and she was freed on May 17.