Judge Denies Bail For Accused NSA Leaker Reality Winner After Not Guilty Plea
A federal judge on Thursday denied bail to Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old Georgia woman accused of leaking classified information to the media, after prosecutors argued she remains a flight risk, a threat to the public and could possibly leak more government documents.
Winner, a National Security Agency contractor and former Air Force linguist, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to a federal charge of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, a felony offense under the Espionage and Censorship Act, according to the Associated Press.
She is the first person charged with leaking classified information during the Trump administration, which has called repeatedly for investigations into media reports on leaked intelligence. If convicted, Winner could face up to 10 years in prison.
Authorities have not identified the contents of the leaked paperwork or named the news outlet that received it, but the charges were made public Monday, shortly after the Intercept published a story about an NSA report on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
At the bail hearing Thursday, prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps that they had uncovered additional information, including what they described as “disturbing” notebook entries, that made Winner a flight risk and danger to the public if she is released before trial.
“We don’t know how much more she knows and how much more she remembers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari said, reported the AP. “But we do know she’s very intelligent. So she’s got a lot of valuable information in her head.”
Solari told the judge that Winner may be in possession of more top-secret intelligence. While still serving in the Air Force, Winner inserted a portable hard drive into a military computer, Solari said investigators have learned, according to the AP. Authorities don’t know what was saved to the drive or where it is now.
Comments Solari said Winner wrote in a notebook also concerned the judge: “I want to burn the White House Down … find somewhere in Kurdistan to live. Ha-ha!”
Prosecutors said they also found the names of three known Islamist extremists in Winner’s notebook, reported Reuters. As an Air Force linguist, Winner learned to speak Arabic and Farsi. She served for six years and worked with a unit of Afghans, which brought her joy, her parents told the Huffington Post.
Solari said prosecutors were not trying to link her to terrorism, however.
“The government is not in any way suggesting the defendant has become a jihadist or that she is a Taliban sympathizer,” Solari told the judge, according to the AP.
As The Washington Post previously reported, Winner had recently moved to Augusta, Ga., after taking a job with security subcontractor Pluribus International. There, she taught yoga, practiced CrossFit and tweeted about her agitation with President Trump.
Winner, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, spoke little during the hearing except to enter her plea.
Solari said in court Thursday that Winner had admitted to FBI agents after her arrest Saturday that she shared the classified report, reported CNN.
Winner told authorities, according to Solari, that she was “mad about what she had recently seen in the media” and that she “wanted to set the facts right,” CNN reported. Solari also said that Winner confessed to her mother during a recorded phone call from jail that she “screwed up.”
Repeating many of the same pleas they’ve made during media interviews this week, Winner’s parents told the judge their daughter was a patriot and upstanding citizen who posed no danger to the United States. They offered to pay Winner’s bond with their 20-acre home in Texas and assured the judge she wouldn’t flee if released.
“Your honor, my daughter is a good girl,” Winner’s stepfather, Gary Davis, told the judge, according to Reuters. “She will do whatever you tell her to do if you grant her bond.”
But ultimately, the judge denied the request, citing her notebook musings on the Middle East and comment about burning down the White House as unsettling.
“Whether that’s a jest or not, it still concerns me,” the judge said, according to the AP.
Winner’s attorney, Titus Nichols, said in court that his client’s status as a technology savvy millennial is being used unfairly against her.
“The government is scraping and clawing to build a mountain out of a molehill,” Nichols said, reported the AP.