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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robertocarlos's picture

Asses of Fire - Blame Canada. You know you NEED a war.

dlfield's picture

This looks as fake as Jerry Jones' new hip.

Alfred's picture

Wait, what....?

Some USA TLA says?

His name was Seth Rich

Kenny Drebson's picture

just in time for comey's testimony.

where's the RAW data to substantiate that analysis?  moreover, where's the proof that russia somehow managed to influence US' fake democracy?

PrometeyBezkrilov's picture

Does anyone believe this BS, or it's just me doubting every line of this report? I think the public is getting really tired of this nonsense. I think they should have given her a medal for finally producing the "evidence" that those bloody Russians hacked something.

Krungle's picture

I am about ready to check out. Reality Winner? Seriously? If that isn't a made up name then she has some hippy parents and would never get NSA clearance. As for Russian attribution, we already know from the Vault 7 files that the CIA can make attacks look like they are coming from the Russians; the NSA knows this. And the Intercept knows this. Thus, attributing blame here without extraordinary evidence seems like a stretch. I mean there were known hacker attacks into several state election computer systems from State Department computers (probably those Awan brothers and associates) and no one seems to care about those. We'll just stick with Reality Winner and the Russian narrative, conveinently rolled out the day after the Putin interview and a week before the Oliver Stone-Putin interview series. But yeah, nothing smells fishy here....

HRH Feant2's picture

I agree. The name is is so fake it reeks.

News just broke on Fox Business / Lou Dobb's show.

I always knew he read ZH!

Extra Oink's picture

This stupid cunt just threw her life away because of hatred for Trump. Unbelieveable.

Barrock's picture

She thought Obama was still president and would get a pardon. 

MuffDiver69's picture

Recently discovered info from April and a month later Reality has it all ready to go for Intercept...Come on...This entire narrative is thread bare and the author does a decent job showing it's all framed to tell a unconfirmed story.....Bulshit Fake News...I have no doubt she passed classified info, but not the way this is told by Intercept.

JackMeOff's picture

It's about time a message was sent!

VIP-LA's picture

What kind of name is Reality Winner? She should change her name to Leaking Looser.

Robinhood's picture

I believe submarines
Underneath deep blue seas
Saw the flags: Japanese
No one will believe me

Ran back to the town bar
And I told the people how
I had seen the submarine
And everyone laughed aloud

I did spy periscopes
Dead of night on the eastern coast
The police made them jokes
Told me I'd seen a ghost

Everyone thinks I'm a liar
No one knows the truth
If it was a bigger fire
I would be on the roof

Ships will rust in Baldwin Bay
(Let me go!)
No one trusts what I say
(I don't know!)
Oh my God, no one paid
Overnight my hair turned gray
(Oh oh oh!)

In the end it boils down to credibility
I had none, so I will die with the secrets of the sea

(Submarine! Can't find me! Submarine!)



 The Lumineers

In the end it boils down to credibility

"they have" none. (Oh oh oh!)

sheikurbootie's picture

Either you forgot to take your meds today or you need to go see a new doc.

WTF, your mind is like shuffling a deck of cards with only 2 cards.

Sir Raisin's picture

More like Bradley - err - Chelsea Manning than Snowden!

Nico Bellik's picture

orange is the new black

JackMeOff's picture

Wonder if Ms Winner believes in Unicorns as well?

just the tip's picture

don't worry about bookmarking this posting by ZH.  you will not need to reference it.  versions of this same story will be released about every four months for the next three and a half years.  or until trump goes to dallas for an open canopy motorcade through downtown.

i've got money on the name of the next leaker.  it will be a he.  and his name will be Jack Meece Off.  you wanna take that bet?  these fucking NSA people are so fucking original.

lennysrv's picture

Bullshit. The next leaker's name will be Heywood Yablowmee.

RICKYBIRD's picture

Exactly. She fell for it.

DieSocialJusticeWankers's picture

Because she's a dumb naïve cunt!

RICKYBIRD's picture

The "top secret information" she leaked may well have been planted just to catch somebody - her!

rejected's picture

Yep,,, best way is to send different messages to different people. When one gets leaked, they know the source.

sheikurbootie's picture

You watch too many movies.  That happens like ....never.   It's a silent bunch.  They not allowed to talk about their work with outsiders, etc.  These are typically smart people that would see a oddity.  Besides, you're subject to a lie detector test or worse as part of your contract. 

This he/she lesbian was "resisting".  Let's see what else she leaked.  She's going to jail and it's Federal, so no parole.

Stan522's picture

What's the bigger story.... they caught a leaker, or that more Russian hype is proven to help Trump....?

sister tika's picture

This arrest story is fucking silly. The "Russians done it" nonsense is getting real old.

Sid Davis's picture

I bet the arresting agents were smiling ear to ear when she didn't ask for a lawyer and admitted to the crime.

You can bet she doesn't watch reality crime shows on TV. You might say she lives an alternative reality.

So why hasn't Hillary been arrested for violating the same laws which she even confessed to?

sheikurbootie's picture

The point many non ex-military here are missing is... The information is NOT YOURS, it's the property of the government.  YOU can't take it, share it, talk about it outside of those that need to know.

Think of it's as stealing. 

rejected's picture

I don't know,,, government doesn't seem to have a problem taking my money in taxes or asset forfeiture, taking my property if I don't pay the bribe or take my life in some stupid war.

And yes, I think of it as stealing.  And my "military" service has nothing to do with it.

Spitball's picture

What thick-whitted comment. 

Your drinking to much of that Amurican kool-aid bro.

The same government that's fucking you and everyone else you know.

Blow me with the "you need to know" shit you dildo

Centerist's picture

You said,

"Blow me with the "you need to know" shit you dildo."

And you call his comment thick-whitted?

Centerist's picture

Thanks for stepping up to say that.  On another thread, I got 20 down votes for saying that Snowden us a traitor who should spend life in jail.

A lot of the foil-hat wearers think that respecting classifications is evidence of being some sort of "deep-state troll".

Plus one to you.

Publicus's picture

The reporter should also get the  the death penalty for treason.

Ms No's picture

I would laugh my ass off if we found out this chick died in the tsunami or something.  She was abducted from some Mormon town and her missing picture has been posted for ten years and is on every carton of milk.  Maybe they accidentally used Nanci Pelosi's dog groomers pic.  Nothing would surprise me at this point.  She was probably one of those chicks that Bill Clinton knocked up during a rape and Brennen had to have her knocked off to make sure she didn't have the kid and prove it to be Clinton's.  Is that Seth Rich's sister? 

Theremustbeanotherway's picture

CIA spoof software?

Lots of lovely trojans and other malware!

metafaux's picture

And that's how you wind up in jail til you're 40 because you wanted to be famous. ????

rejected's picture

Reality Winner...

Is this a test?

tener's picture

Now they're using PPT presentations as proof? LOL. 

They wouyldn't dare show us a shred of proof because we'll debunk it within seconds. 

IndyPat's picture

The 25-year-old woman who stole “Top Secret” documents from the National Security Agency and leaked them to The Intercept appears to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders and other progressive icons, such as Bill Maher and Michael Moore.

Reality Leigh Winner’s apparent social media footprint also shows that she is a supporter of other liberal causes, including the Women’s March and the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim civil rights group.

She also recently referred to President Trump as a “piece of shit” because of his position on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests.


Prison is gonna wipe that smirk off your face.

lake's picture

These people have no concept of reality. They believe everything they see on CNN.

Ms No's picture

Tyler should try to contact Kissinger's office and ask him to kindly tell us WTH is going on. 

"Dear Mr. Kissinger and associates, can please give us peasants some info on whether you are going for Iran shortly or if we have a couple years?  We know you see the information non-compartmentalized and we would really appreciate it.  Hillary has really gotten out of control and is clearly a liability.  Any plans for that?  We know we have to adjust to constant statist propaganda but we kindly request that you remove Don Lemon and Bill Maher, because DAMN!  P.S. As a token of friendship and quid pro quo, that 14 year old girl that CNN has posted as an NSA leaker is on a milk carton in Utah."

You never know the old bastard might find it amusing and throw back a cryptic message that says nothing and admits everything.

IndyPat's picture

...'the illegal we do immediately..."

Always a crowd pleasing quote.

Yeah, Kissinger gives zero fucks about just throwing it all out in bold caps.

gcjohns1971's picture

The stuff that is too stupid to be true?

Well, it usually is.

Often, the stuff that is too-crazy-to-be-true, is also.

And the consensus official view?

That one is ALWAYS a lie.  

Think about it.   If it were consensus, and not a lie, then there would be no reason to officially say anything at all.  

Confirmation of the accepted is redundant and unnecessary.

tener's picture

Even her name sounds fake: Reality Leigh Winner


_SILENCER's picture

Deep State Xanax Stooge

Robert Trip's picture

That bitch Reality is about to get a reality check.

She's taking one for the Progressive Team, big time.

Meet big Sarah in the pen bitch.

DuneCreature's picture

hehehehe! .. The NSA said, Really a Wiennie Winner.


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