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US intelligence contractor arrested for leaking classified document

This was the first instance of arrest for the unauthorised disclosure of classified information under the Donald Trump administration.

world Updated: Jun 06, 2017 16:54 IST
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged by the justice department of sending classified material to a news organization.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged by the justice department of sending classified material to a news organization.(Reuters)

The US justice department on Monday announced the arrest of an intelligence contractor for leaking a classified document, hours after a news outlet published an article based on information disclosed in it.

This was the first instance of arrest for unauthorised disclosure of classified information under the Donald Trump administration, which has felt under attack from an onslaught of leaks embroiling it a number of controversies.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor working at an intelligence community facility in Georgia, was charged with “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet”, the justice department said.

She was employed with Pluribus International Corporation, which had assigned her to a US government agency facility in Georgia, and she had been working there since February.

The justice department said Winner held a top secret clearance during that time. “On or about May 9, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defence information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it,” the justice department said.

“Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”

The department said the news outlet, The Intercept, ran an article based on information provided by an anonymous source that Russian interference in the 2016 US election went much deeper than previously reported or known.

The Intercept reported two cyberattacks in which hackers for Russian military intelligence, GRU, tried to access voter registration records in August and 100 election officials through spear phishing just days before polling.

The US has accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 election to defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump win, alleging personal animus between President Vladimir Putin and Clinton.

Moscow has denied the allegations and Putin has dismissed personal involvement in it at multiple forums, including an interview that aired over the weekend. But, he has said, “patriotically minded” hackers might have acted on their own.