Grand jury indicts Augusta contractor in NSA leak case

Augusta – A federal grand jury has indicted the suspect in the National Security Agency leak investigation on a single count of "willful retention and transmission of national defense information," court records show.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, plus up to three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment.

Her attorney, Titus Nichols, said she will plead not guilty to the charge. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case.

Filed this week, the six-page indictment says the Air Force veteran worked as a federal contractor at a U.S. government agency in Georgia between February and June and had a top-secret security clearance. On about May 9, the indictment says, Winner printed and removed a May 5 report on “intelligence activities by a foreign government directed at targets within the United States.” Two days later, she sent a copy of the report to an online news outlet.

The U.S. Justice Department announced her arrest Monday, about an hour after The Intercept reported that it had obtained a top-secret NSA report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The intelligence report, according to The Intercept, says Russian military intelligence officials tried to hack into the U.S. voting system just before last November’s election.

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A court hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Augusta Thursday concerning Winner’s detention. The judge in the case could decide to keep her in detention or release her, possibly with conditions such as a requirement that she stay in her home, wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and check in routinely with probation officers.

Nichols said he will argue for her release from the Lincoln County Jail, which is located about 40 miles northwest of Augusta.

“We are going to argue that,” Nichols said, “in accordance with the statute, she should be released pre-trial.”

Read federal indictment and penalty certification