Hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it’s arrested and charged Reality Leigh Winner with leaking classified information to a news organization, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called for people to support her.
Winner, a 25-year-old federal contractor, allegedly leaked a classified document to a news organization, believed to be The Intercept.
The Intercept published a report on the document June 5, the same day Winner was charged. But it allegedly contacted authorities on May 30 saying that they may have received classified information from an anonymous source. The NSA document was dated May 5, the search warrant said.
Winner is charged with “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” a federal offense that could put her in a penitentiary for 10 years if she’s convicted.
Assange, who has been outspoken about being transparent with government documents, said in a series of tweets that people must come together to support the “NSA whistle blower.” He added that “acts of non-elite sources communicating knowledge should be strongly encouraged.”
See Assange’s tweets/statement below:
Winner is a former member of the United States Air Force, where she was on active duty and worked as a linguist. Shes speaks Pashto, Farsi and Dari, her mother Billie Winner-Davis told The Guardian’s Jon Swaine.
After exiting the Air Force, Winner worked for Pluribus International Corporation based out of Alexandria, Virginia. The company is a government contractor, and Winner was assigned to a government agency in Georgia, where she handled classified information. She was employed at the facility since February 13, and held a Top Secret security clearance, giving her access to the secret defense information.
Winner is accused of obtaining a Top Secret document, copying it and mailing it into a news organization. That news organization wasn’t directly identified in the criminal complaint, but it’s believed that it contained information that The Intercept reported on, saying that the Russians tried to influence the election as much as one week prior to the 2016 presidential election.
Winner allegedly sent the document through the U.S. Mail from Augusta, Georgia. The F.B.I. was tipped off after someone at the news organization came forward to authorities May 30, saying they believed the document they were going to publish in a future story contained extremely sensitive information. The agency confirmed the authenticity of the document and claimed that it could do damage to the U.S. and its defense.
Authorities acted on a search warrant June 3 at Winner’s home and found enough evidence for probable cause. Following the search, they brought Winner into custody, where she was interviewed. During the interview, a criminal complaint stated that she admitted to willingly obtaining the document and sending it to the news organization.
Winner is due in federal court Thursday.