Defense in accused NSA leaker case opposes prosecutors proposed order of protection

This June photo released by the Lincoln County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office, shows Reality Winner. Winner is being held for federal authorities at the Lincoln County, Ga., jail. She is charged with leaking government secrets to a reporter. Her parents said she poses no flight risk if she’s released from pre-trial confinement, though they fear prosecutors will seek to use the case to send a tough message from the Trump administration. (Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

The attorneys for the Fort Gordon contractor accused of leaking national defense information have filed their own proposed order regarding how classified documents are handled in her espionage case.

 

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to a single count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information.

While the federal prosecutors have proposed an order of protection that prohibits the defense from revealing any classified information, even if it had been included in published reports, Winner’s attorneys propose not treating any document as classified if it has been the subject of media reports. Violation of the final order of protection can result in sanctions and even criminal prosecution.

The case against Winner, which is tentatively set for trial the week of Oct. 23, is to proceed under the Classified Information Security Act, a law enacted to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial while allowing the government to protect classified information on matters of national security.

The federal prosecutors contend it is the executive branch of government that determines what is a classified document.

In Winner’s case, the document suspected as being the one sent anonymously to the online news publication The Intercept was the subject of an June 5 article. It was an analysis of the Russian government’s meddling in the presidential election. Since Winner’s arrest, the subject has been reported on extensively, especially in light of the investigations by the independent special counsel, and the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Winner’s defense attorneys also seek a provision in the order of protection that allows her to review the discovery material, confer with attorneys about it and to assist in her defense.

The defense team also wants the proposed order to allow defense experts with the prosecutor’s security clearance to review the discovery material without any pre-clearance by the prosecution.

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Brian K. Epps will determine what the final order of protection will contain. The government, however, has the right to appeal, under the Classified Information Security Act.

Winner has had a top security clearance since serving for six years in the Air Force. In February, she began working for the National Security Agency contractor, Pluribus International Corp. at Fort Gordon.

She is accused of taking a classified document in May and mailing it to The Intercept.

Federal agents allegedly followed clues to Augusta and to Winner after an Intercept reporter showed an intelligence source the document to determine its authenticity.

 

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

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