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25-year-old contractor accused of leaking top-secret NSA document is facing espionage charges

David Choi

Reality Leigh Winner

(Reality Leigh Winner.Screenshot via Twitter)
Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old federal contractor who was arrested on suspicion of leaking top-secret intelligence to a news outlet, has confessed to an agent, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Winner, an Air Force veteran from Augusta, Georgia, is accused of mailing to the news outlet The Intercept a top-secret report revealing an attempted hack by Russia's military intelligence unit in last year's US election.

About an hour after The Intercept published the document, the Justice Department announced its case against Winner, who is being charged under the Espionage Act, The Times reported.

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This would be the first criminal leak case filed during the administration of President Donald Trump, who has threatened to pursue federal employees who leak potentially damaging information to media organizations. In two May tweets, Trump said that he ordered officials "to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community" and that leaks had been "deeply troubling."

"These leaks have been going on for a long time and my Administration will get to the bottom of this," a statement from the White House in late May said. "The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security."

The leaked report details two cyberattacks conducted by the Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU, that targeted voter registration-related software and 122 local election officials, The Times reported. The level of success of the cyberattacks is unclear.

Winner, who holds a top-secret security clearance, was an employee of Pluribus International Corporation in February. The company's clients includes various defense agencies, such as the US Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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