(In 8th paragraph, corrects to read unauthorized disclosure,
not authorized disclosure)
By Rich McKay
AUGUSTA, Ga., June 8 A U.S. intelligence
contractor pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of leaking
a classified report on Russian interference in U.S. elections to
a media outlet, and a federal judge denied her request for bail.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, is accused of passing a top secret
National Security Agency report to The Intercept while working
as a contractor with Pluribus International Corp.
Winner was charged in a federal grand jury indictment on
Wednesday with a single count of willful retention and
transmission of national defense information, a federal felony
offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
A federal judge ordered that Winner remain held without bond
after prosecutors argued during Thursday's three-hour hearing
that she posed a flight risk and danger to the public, citing
what they called "disturbing" comments in a notebook of hers.
In one notation she wrote: "I want to burn the White House
down," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari told the judge.
The prosecutor said investigators also found the names of three
Islamic extremists known to federal authorities listed in
According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in court by
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Winner admitted to
intentionally printing a copy of the intelligence report in her
office and mailing it to the news outlet.
The NSA document in question provided technical details on
what it said were Russian attempts to hack election officials in
the United States and a voting-machine firm before the U.S.
presidential election in November, two U.S. officials with
knowledge of the case have confirmed to Reuters.
The FBI affidavit said unauthorized disclosure of the
document "could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage
to the national security, and is marked as such."
Winner, shackled at the feet and wearing an orange jumpsuit
in court, said little during Thursday's proceeding, except to
reply, "not guilty, your honor," when asked for her plea, and to
answer "yes" and "no" to procedural questions put to her by the
She became the first person charged with leaking classified
information to the media under the administration of President
Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to crack down on leakers,
believes anyone found guilty of unlawfully disclosing government
secrets should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing
ahead of Winner's detention hearing.
First Amendment advocates have said they are concerned the
Trump administration may use Winner's case to chill what they
view as legitimate government whistleblowing. They were also
critical of the Obama administration's approach to leaks,
including its pursuit of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The case against Winner was announced less than an hour
after The Intercept published the secret NSA document.
(Reporting Rich McKay in Augusta. Additional reporting by
Dustin Volz in Washington; Writing by Jim Finkle in Toronto and
Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool and Tom