FBI Arrests NSA Contractor Who Leaked Top Secret "Russian Hacking" Document To The Intercept

Tyler Durden's picture

Earlier this afternoon, the Intercept reported that according to a "top secret NSA document", Russian Military Intelligence "executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials days before election."

The NSA document, reportedly dated May 5, analyzes recently acquired intelligence about "a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure." The document notes that investigation only began in the last few months. The document claims the investigation was spurred by "information that became available in April 2017."

According to the Intercept, the report is "the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light. It is said to reveal that that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood" and "states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document." This is what the document alleges:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

While the manufacturer victimized by the attack has its name masked throughout the report, the Hill suggests that it might be VR Systems. The email account used to spear-phish customers is listed as vr.elections@gmail.com, and the attack made use of malware-infected files with titles that reference to the EViD poll book system. The report makes reference to voter-registration themed phishing attacks against third parties possibly using information from the account, making it likely the company is somehow related to registration or voter roles. VR's website says EViD products were used in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, New York and Virginia. The company is based in Florida.

The NSA document alleges the GRU hacked the voting systems company using a false Google alert requiring a target to enter login credentials. According to the report, it also attempted a parallel campaign using a false email account meant to be confused with a second company.  And yet, despite all that "sophistication", Russia's smartest, government hackers somehow left a trail so obvious that it would allow the NSA to conclude in under a month, that Russia's GRU was behind it. Which is also where the story become questionable because at roughly the same time, another set of alleged Russian hackers, the Shadow Brokers, was in possession (and trying to sell) weaponized CIA methods, allowing any potential hacker to adopt the identity of anyone else, even the CIA or NSA.

Lack of coherent narrative aside, according to the official report, on one hand the NSA summary judgment conflicts with Vladimir Putin’s ongoing denials that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” The NSA report, the Intercept claims, "displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU."

That said, the report does not claim that voting machines were hacked, a once-popular post-election theory from Democrats, nor does it state whether the information pertaining to the voting systems could be used to hack those systems. 

On the other hand, the same Intercept article notes that  "a U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive." Still, the assessment concluded with high confidence that the Kremlin ordered an extensive, multi-pronged propaganda effort “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

It is not immediately clear how Russian GRU hackers would make the leap between a spear-phishing campaign of election officials to successfully "denigrating Secretary Clinton, and her electability and potential presidency" unless of course that is merely the biased assessment of the original report's author, in which case it is no different, or "useful", than the intel report released in January which "found" Russian involvement (much like this one allegedly did).

Since the document is confidential, and is only held by the Intercept, and since it will not be unclassified, nothing that is contained inside it can be verified, aside from the Intercept's own summary take. Furthermore, according to the author, not even the leaked document "shows the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based." In other words, just like the January Russian hacking report, it is yet another allegation. At that point, it once again devolves to "he said, she said" mutual allegations.

Where the story gets more interesting, however, is that  just hours after the Intercept reported on the top secret document, the FBI arrested and charged the woman (with the peculiar name Reality Leigh Winner) they say leaked a Top Secret document to The Intercept.

This is what the DOJ released moments ago:

Federal Government Contractor in Georgia Charged With Removing and Mailing Classified Materials to a News Outlet


A criminal complaint was filed in the Southern District of Georgia today charging Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia, with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 793(e).


Winner was arrested by the FBI at her home on Saturday, June 3, and appeared in federal court in Augusta this afternoon.


“Exceptional law enforcement efforts allowed us quickly to identify and arrest the defendant,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government. People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”


According to the allegations contained in the criminal complaint:


Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a U.S. government agency facility in Georgia. She has been employed at the facility since on or about February 13, and has 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 defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.

Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. According to the complaint, Winner agreed to talk with ag


nts during the execution of the warrant. During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a "need to know," and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified. Winner further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents.


An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.


The prosecution is being handled by Trial Attorney Julie A. Edelstein of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI.

Meet Reality Winner: the new Edward Snowden:

So another "Snowden"-type NSA contractor who went rogue, only this one wasn't smart enough to cover her tracks, and instead of seeking asylum in Russia, Reality Winner will now spend years in US Federal Prison. Also, perhaps notable, is that instead of approaching Wikileaks, the leaker decided to go with The Intercept this time.

As for the underlying allegation, that Putin lied not only in St Petersburg and to Megyn Kelly most recently, and that Russia somehow did try to hack a "named US company to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions", even though the report does not reveal the underlying “raw” intelligence - i.e., evidence - on which the analysis is based, we look forward to this stirring up yet another round of media frenzy just as the Russian hacking narrative was slowly taking a back seat to the the upcoming featured spectacle, this Thursday's James Comey testimony about being strongarmed by Trump to stop investigating Mike Flynn, which among other things will hopefully explain how nearly a year after these alleged hacks, aside from the occasional leaked report without evidence, there is still no actual evidence - leaked or otherwise - confirming that Russia's GRU did indeed "hack" the election.

* * *

Update: some additional details have emerged about leaker Reality Leigh Winner, who for some inexplicable reason had a top security clearance.

According to the Guardian's John Swaine, Winner  is a former US Air Force linguist who speaks Pashto, Farsi & Dari

* * *

Here she is calling the president a "piece of shit" on Facebook over his handling of DAPL:

* * *

Winner posting an autographed photo of Anderson Cooper on facebook.

* * *

Her facebook post before the election in which she says "this Tuesday when we become the United States of the Russian Federation, Olympic lifting will be the national sport."

* * *

Here she is visiting the office of US Senator Perdue before leaking the classified docs.

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MaxThrust's picture

"How does a 25 year old get that security clearance"

Additionally how can someone with that level of clearance be so dumb to mail a letter from where they live. I mean for fuck sakes! [She probably didn't even wear gloves when mailing it]

PacOps's picture

"Additionally how can someone with that level of clearance be so dumb ..."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to get a clearance - only that your job requires the "need to know".

If your FBI background check comes back without any red flags - the clearance is granted.

Edit: And she probably already had the clearance earlier while in the AF:

"According to the Guardian's John Swaine, Winner  is a former US Air Force linguist who speaks Pashto, Farsi & Dari

Breezy47's picture

I know a 17-year-old kid who has clearance.

PacOps's picture

"How does a 25 year old get that security clearance?"

Primarily it is "need to know". If you have a need to know or work/have access to a facility that is classified you must have been vetted and hold that level of clearance.

Just having access to the area, say as a janitor, requires the clearance even tho you may have nothing to do with the actual operation or data involved.

Grandad Grumps's picture

They must REALLY be getting desperate.

1. They are framing a 25 year olf (if he actually exists). This sounds so much like the Bradley Manning frame-up.
2. There is no indicationf of success
3. The NSA report, the Intercept claims, "displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU. "Then SHOW THE PROOF!!!!" The NSA, CIA and all US government agencies have a credibility problem ... they have none.

"a U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified" ... then without confirmation from an actual named source we MUST assume that this entire thing is a LIE!

And the criminal MSM will treat this like the word came from God himself ...

espirit's picture

Yes, this one smells badly of desperation.

techpriest's picture

Maybe they are sacrificing one "leaker" so that people can claim a victory and say "OK, we won, let's all go back to sleep." ?

IndyPat's picture

Nah. Every inch of that shit has the ability to be audited instantly.

I wouldn't even look at the fucking folder icon of a dir I didn't have access to.
It's all logged. All the transactions with the file.

If this chick sees prison, so should Hill and Huma.
This chick probably sat through the top secret access HR training and signed that she understood.
Hill and Huma have had that probably a dozen times.
You have to sign saying you understand.

They'll gladly jail you even if you don't, though.

This is BS. Hill must be charged. She did far, far worse and everyone at FBI knew it.

RICKYBIRD's picture

I seem to recall reading that Hillary signed nothing to the effect that she had received training and understood its implications. Or maybe it was that nothing to that effect exists now. Huma I'm not so sure about.

IndyPat's picture

You don't get an account without a signed doc.

Md4's picture


At some point, Trump needs to put a stop to this shit by demanding the spook agencies put up or shut up.

Breaking with security protocols are warranted here--EVEN IF sources and methods are revealed.

I seriously doubt any other government doesn't know these already.

The president can easily order the investigations halted and the matter closed officially.

The longer the Russian hacking delusion lingers, the more likely it is that some bastard agency is going to find "something" beyond specious allegations...even if they have to invent it.

Le_Zabroso's picture

The *Dodgy Dossier* part 2--at least the Pussy Hats have some evidence now, bless their pussy hearts.

Ex-Oligarch's picture

What evidence?

Unsupported conclusions are not evidence, even if you type them up neatly and call them a "report."

tropicthunder's picture

Talk about top secret.. so yeah let's be sure to put all of these details in a fucking powerpoint presentation so its even easier to distribute..


iamerican4's picture

Recent leak showed the software the JFK-assassinating CIA uses to make a hack appear to be by another.

Lumberjack's picture

Long Depends and that stuff used in new fangled batteries...um... Lithium...

besnook's picture

so intercept outed her.

quikwit's picture

"Not necessarily definitive," but "high confidence." "the most detailed U.S. government account," "states unequivocally" and "displays no doubt," but "cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion."

I'm wondering whether the same guys also write the Fed Reserve minutes and speeches. Totally bipolar.

gregga777's picture

I will be happy when the American economy collapses and all of the MORONS in the 17 American MORON Agencies take up well deserved residencies in OBAMAVILLE tent cities nationwide.  

847328_3527's picture

So the weasels caught a weasel?

IndyPat's picture

...'Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a "need to know,"

So...how did this dipshit have access to that which she lacked the need to know.

This smells funny.

Ms No's picture

Erroneous!!!  After those two recent interviews with Putin many Americans got to see Putin as a human being for the first time.  They also had the opportunity to see his genuine response to the absurd election hacking allegations.  Now they are probably just taking measures to shore that situation up. 


IndyPat's picture

Wasn't this chick on that tv show w/ Bill Paxton?
Big Love?

IranContra's picture

Comey gone, the special agents are free to do real work again. Good job, guys! Who's trembling in their shirts now?

Dancing Disraeli's picture

McCabe is FAR worse than Comey.

Interested_Observer's picture

The Russians used super duper cloaking software on Wisconsin too!

CNN told me so!



gregga777's picture

"Exceptional law enforcement efforts allowed us quickly to identify and arrest the defendant,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government..."


There's public faith in government?  Really?



Never One Roach's picture

Hard to beleive he said that with a straight face.

TheLastTrump's picture

Worked there 3 months. Enjoy prison you treacherous bitch.

Giant Meteor's picture

Trump, Trump, Trump .. save it for the morning tweeter ..\

Besides, why get all charged up over the Kabuki show ...

Relax, take a breath and enjoy the covfefe ...

south40_dreams's picture

Smells bad all around. The bastards are desperate, of that there can be no doubt

WTFUD's picture

Yes Desperation hangs in the air like the smell of a decomposing body. Ask Hillary!

south40_dreams's picture

This 25 year old cupcake was given access to the smoking gun that NOBODY else could find?
Ya right

Giant Meteor's picture

Just fessed right up ...

Sung like a canary ...

Yes twas me, me, me it was all me, I did it .. I'm guilty, I gave all to the Russians!

Need better script writers ..

RICKYBIRD's picture

The smoking gun here was the bait to catch the leaker.

WTFUD's picture

She's a Spy, right?

So Waterboard her and then finger-fuck out the Names of those behind her Treasonous Actions.


Slippery Slope's picture

I finally wish it was the Russians, after months of nonsense.

Come on Putin, throw us a bone, we're looking pathetic.

shovelhead's picture

I'm wondering if Putin threw a bone into Megan just so he could say he hacked an American news outfit.

moorewasthebestbond's picture

Are you sure she's not still on the payroll?

Giant Meteor's picture

Meet Reality Leigh Winner.

Let's see here, what would be your first clue?


It's an NSA word Jumble ..

Un-Reality Winner Leighed ..

They're really , really fucking with us now ..

Zepper's picture

I hope her jailhouse lover has HUGE HANDS!

Giant Meteor's picture

Meet Reality Leigh Winner. 

No shit?

So let me guess, she transforms into a dude and is out in three ?

Westcoastliberal's picture

The flip side of Bradley Manning.

grunk's picture

Reality sucks.

Miskondukt's picture

Can't seem to find any mention of that very odd name online prior to this 'news' bite.