Federal contractor in Georgia arrested by FBI over leaked NSA document

Russian intelligence agents launched a cyber-attack into a U.S. voting systems manufacturer weeks before the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report by the Intercept.

In the NSA's classified report from May 5, the agency detailed how Russian government hackers tried to phish USA officials and VR Systems, a technology company that creates election software for eight states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the USA election and voting infrastructure.

The dossier claims that on August 24, 2016, elements from the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) began a spear-phishing attack against companies that supply U.S. election systems.

The report was confirmed by the government, which later Monday announced the arrest of a private contractor for allegedly leaking the confidential report to the news outlet.

The statement was the closest Putin has come to acknowledging the view of United States intelligence agencies that Russian hackers were behind the campaigns targeting Democrats during last year's election.

According to an application [PDF] for her arrest warrant, on May 9, Winner, who had been with Pluribus for just three months, printed out a top-secret report dated May 5 from her work PC, and posted the dossier to an unnamed news organization. A further audit of the six individuals' desk computers revealed that victor had email contact with the news outlet. It further states that the intelligence agency was subsequently contacted by the news outlet on May 30 regarding an upcoming story, saying it was in possession of what appeared to be a classified document. USA intelligence officials then asked The Intercept to redact certain sections.

Victor was working as a contractor for Pluribus International, and is accused of having given the document in question to The Intercept.

Reality Leigh Winner is accused of "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet".

Winner's lawyer, Titus Nichols, said he had not yet seen any of the evidence in the case, so he could not discuss the specific accusations. When questioned by the FBI "Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a "need to know", the complaint alleges".

Victor remains in jail pending a detention hearing later this week, said the lawyer, adding that he expects the government will seek to keep her behind bars pending trial.

In affidavits filed with the court, Garrick of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the government was notified of the leaked report by the news outlet that received it.

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.

  • Kyle Peterson