Senators seek answers about accused NSA leaker’s security clearance 

A pair of senior U.S. senators is pressing the Trump administration for information about how the Augusta woman at the center of the National Security Agency leak investigation was screened for her security clearance.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Ranking Member Clair McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, sent seven questions about Reality Leigh Winner and the government’s vetting process to the Office of Personnel Management this week. 

Among other things, the senators want to know which federal agency initially screened Winner and when, when her clearance was last reinvestigated and whether those screenings were done by federal employees or contractors? They also want to know the size of the government’s current backlog of security clearance reinvestigations. 

Winner worked as a federal contractor at a U.S. government agency in Georgia between February and June and had a top-secret security clearance. A federal grand jury has indicted her on a single count of "willful retention and transmission of national defense information” for allegedly leaking to the news media a classified NSA report on Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election system. Before she was indicted, Winner spent months unleashing a tirade of social media posts calling President Donald Trump, among other things, an "orange fascist." 

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Winner 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. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge. Her next court hearing is set for June 27 in Augusta. TMZ recently published video of her exercising in an outdoor area of the Lincoln County Jail, where she is being detained.

“Ms. Winner allegedly chose to put Americans and our national security at risk when she leaked classified materials,” Johnson said in a joint statement with McCaskill. “It is my hope that OPM will do a thorough review of her security clearance, and determine if it was granted appropriately.” 

McCaskill said: “The leaking of classified information jeopardizes our national security. We need to determine if Ms. Winner’s security clearance process was handled correctly or if we missed any red flags.” 

The Office of Personnel Management had no immediate comment Friday.

Gary Davis and Billie Winner-Davis, stepfather and mother of Reality Leigh Winner, spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about their daughter. Video by Hyosub Shin/AJC.
Video: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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