The US Justice Department has charged a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor with leaking secrets related to the alleged Russian hacking attacks during last year’s race for the White House.
Reality Leigh Winner, who was arrested on Saturday, is accused of removing classified documents from a government facility in Georgia and leaking them to the press, according to the Justice Department.
The charges were leveled against the 25-year-old on Monday, hours after a report by The Intercept detailed a cyber security attack against a US voting software supplier as well as local election authorities days before the November 8 face-off between Trump and her Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Dated May 5, 2017, the NSA report states unequivocally that Russia’s military intelligence, particularly the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), was responsible for the hacking attempts.
The GRU is accused in the document of trying to trick more than local officials into exposing their secrets by sending “spear-phishing” or targeted emails to them.
An employee of the military contractor Pluribus International Corporation, Winner graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 2011.
Intelligence officials said she was one of the only six people who had printed the documents that she had exchanged emails with The Intercept.
While the NSA agent’s court filings did not mention any specific publication, officials confirmed to Reuters that Leigh Winner was indeed being charged with leaking the info to The Intercept.
The report was slated to become declassified on May 5, 2042, under an executive order by former US Presidnt Bill Clinton, which requires such documents to remain classified for at least 25 years.
It did not draw any decisive conclusion that Russia’s intervention had impacted the outcome of the vote.
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The Justice Department’s move highlights the Trump administration’s ongoing clash with American intelligence agencies, which on several occasions have raised the alarm over Russia’s role in Trump’s victory.
The FBI and other US intelligence agencies have been investigating the possible ways that Moscow could have used to reach the stated goal.
In the run-up to the vote, thousands of hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) were publicly released to the internet, seriously undermining the Clinton campaign.
The Kremlin has firmly denied all of the allegations, saying they are only aimed at “demonizing” Moscow.
“We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC News last week.