What We Know About Reality Winner, Government Contractor Accused Of NSA Leak : The Two-Way Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran, is accused of mailing classified material to an online news outlet. A report Monday in The Intercept details a Russian cyberattack on U.S. election systems.
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What We Know About Reality Winner, Government Contractor Accused Of NSA Leak

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What We Know About Reality Winner, Government Contractor Accused Of NSA Leak

What We Know About Reality Winner, Government Contractor Accused Of NSA Leak

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now a story that brings together a couple of recurring themes about national security under the Trump administration, Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and leaks of sensitive government information. Yesterday, the Justice Department accused a 25-year-old woman of giving a classified document to a news outlet. Her name is Reality Winner.

NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is here to tell us more about her. And Greg, who is Reality Winner?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, this young woman, based on her Instagram photos, loved cooking, loved working out. She was raised in Kingsville, Texas, and after high school, she went straight to the military. She was a linguist in the Air Force. The languages she specialized in were Pashto and Dari in Farsi. These are languages widely spoken in Iran and Afghanistan - did this for six years, got out of the military end of last year, found a job with a company called Pluribus International Corporation. It's a government contractor that works with the national security community. She started working with them in Georgia, and she got top secret clearance for that job.

SIEGEL: The Trump administration has vowed to punish leakers. She is the first one to be charged under this administration. What does the Justice Department accuse her of doing?

MYRE: Well, they say that a month ago, she printed out a National Security Agency document using this top security clearance that she had. And this was a document that detailed the Russian efforts to penetrate the U.S. election system, provides lots of specifics on the details trying to get into a company that makes election software, mailing emails to local election official. It doesn't point to vote tampering or Trump campaign contact with the Russians, but it provides lots of insight into what the NSA has been learning about these extensive Russian efforts.

SIEGEL: You've said that Reality Winner printed out this document. What did she tell the FBI she did with it once she printed it out?

MYRE: So apparently she printed it at her office, took it out and then put in old-fashioned post office mail. Now, the FBI isn't naming the news organization that she sent it to, and the news organization that seems to be involved, which is The Intercept, the online news organization, isn't citing its source. But they're both telling very similar stories.

The Intercept says it received a document from the - with the NSA information anonymously, and the FBI says that it was contacted by this news organization in reference to an NSA document. And so the government now knows that there's this leaked document, and they start investigating. Now, these are investigations that can often take months or even longer. This happened very, very quickly. Last week, the FBI learned about this on Thursday. They arrested her on Saturday, announced the charges on Monday.

SIEGEL: Greg, we hear leak, NSA contractor. The question is, is this in any way comparable to what Edward Snowden did?

MYRE: Some similarities. Obviously we have an NSA contractor accused of leaking classified documents - shows that this is still very difficult to prevent even though we've had a President Trump speaking quite vociferously about this. But in this case, the FBI was able to act very quickly and say they found the person who did it.

Now, remember. Snowden leaked thousands and thousands of documents, and she - Reality Winner is accused of leaking one document - so a huge difference there. Also motive here - Snowden said he did this to tell Americans about something they didn't know, the extent of government surveillance. Here we have the NSA doing exactly what you'd expect them to be doing.

SIEGEL: Well, and in this case of course, it wasn't U.S. activities that were disclosed but Russian activities...

MYRE: Exactly.

SIEGEL: ...That were disclosed by the leak. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre, thanks.

MYRE: Thank you, Robert.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLOCKHEAD'S "ATTACK THE DOCTOR")

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