If Reality Leigh Winner’s defense team has any notion that federal prosecutors are beginning to see the leaker suspect as less threatening, the response that prosecutors filed in advance of her detention hearing Friday shows that assumption is wrong.
Winner, 25, has pleaded not guilty to a single count of violating the Espionage Act by the willful retention and transmission of national defense information. She has been held without bond since her June 3 arrest. Last week, the defense team asked the judge to reopen Winner’s detention hearing based on new evidence.
Although the defense team contends that accurate transcriptions of Winner’s phone conversations and statement to FBI agents prove she isn’t the sinister threat prosecutors painted at her initial detention hearing June 8, the federal government’s response filed Wednesday shows it hasn’t budged from its initial assessment.
“The defendant has shown an aptitude for deception and concealment and she has the capacity to cause further harm to the U.S. national security if released,” the response states. “(Winner) is an attractive candidate for recruitment by well-funded foreign intelligence service and non-governmental organizations and media outlets that advocate and procure the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
Winner has caused “grave danger to the national security of the United States,” it stated. “This harm is not speculative, or hypothetical, but is concrete, mensurable, and directly attributable to the defendant’s misconduct.”
In support of its response seeking Winner’s continued detainment until her trial, the prosecutors filed a transcript of her recorded interview June 3 with FBI agents, the day agents searched her Battle Row rental home.
Though prosecutors continue to insist the document Winner is accused of taking from her National Security Agency’s contractor job with Pluribus International on May 9 is still classified, the analysis of Russia’s attempts to infiltrate election systems in several U.S. states in advance of last year’s presidential election has now been widely reported, first in the online publication The Intercept, the believed recipient of the leaked document.
Winner, according to the transcript of the June 3 interview, tried to deflect suspicion from herself, but when confronted with the evidence that led federal agents to her doorstep, she said, “Obviously, yeah, crap.”
“Yeah, I screwed up royally. I mean I’m trying to deploy. I’m not trying to be a whistleblower … I wasn’t trying to … wasn’t trying to be a (Edward) Snowden or anything.” Snowden, now believed to be living in Russia, was a NSA analyst who is accused of leaking thousands of classified documents about the government’s secret information gathering.
“I didn’t understand why it (was) not a thing. It made me very mad. At that point I didn’t care about myself,” Winner said. “That day, that week it was just too much and (to) just sit back and watch it, and think, why do I have this job if I’m just going to set back and be helpless?” Winner said.
The day Winner was referring to was May 9, the day President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump’s campaign for possible collusion with Russia to sway the election. She said she folded the secret document and hid it in her pantyhose when she left her job. It was also the same day CNN reported federal grand jury subpoenas were issued to Trump associates.
When asked if she realized that NSA sources and methods could have been compromised by the leaked document, Winner said yes, but added, “If they haven’t been already then yes.” The document was a drop in the bucket, she said.
Federal prosecutors contend Winner’s actions were premeditated based on her online research about Wikileaks at the time when she was looking for work where she could use her top security clearance, and her later search for ways to conceal her identity online.
They also reference exchanges Winner had with her sister on Facebook when Winner told her sister she thought she would flunk the polygraph exam required for her work. “I only say I hate America three times a day.”
Winner would have had to pass the polygraph to keep her job, however.
“Finally, when FBI agents searched (Winner’s) residence on June 3, 2017, they found a document containing highly sensitive information … relating to foreign intelligence targets associated with terrorist activity.” That, coupled with Winner’s search on ways to remain anonymous online, proves her to be a potential danger if freed on bond, according to the prosecutors.
Although the prosecution’s response alleges Winner retained another secret document, no new criminal charges were added when she was re-indicted earlier this month.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.