Bond denied for accused leaker Reality Winner

Bond was denied again Thursday for the former Fort Gordon contractor accused of leaking a classified document.

 

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Brian K. Epps delayed ruling on the request for bond for Reality Winner after the Sept. 29 hearing, saying he wanted more time to consider the request. He issued an eight-page order denying bond Thursday afternoon. He initially denied bond on June 8.

Winner, 25, has been held without bond since her June 3 arrest for allegedly violating the federal Espionage Act. She has pleaded not guilty.

The document Winner is accused of leaking to the online publication The Intercept concerned an analysis of the Russian attempts to influence the presidential election, a subject that is being investigated by the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and a special prosecutor who is also investigating the possible collusion between Trump supporters and Russian operatives.

After serving six years in the Air Force as a linguist, Winner maintained a top secret clearance when she began working for Pluribus International in February. She is accused of downloading the document on May 9 and mailing to The Intercept the next day.

Epps found the weight of evidence against Winner is great, and that Winner posed an ongoing risk to national security because of the potential for additional disclosures given her prior access to classified information.

Epps didn’t view Winner’s exchanges with her sister as sarcastic humor, as her sister testified last week, but literal expressions of hatred for the United States.

Epps also found the evidence that Winner’s alleged leak was premeditated. Before her discharge from the Air Force, Winner allegedly searched the internet to find out what could happen if a thumb drive was inserted in a top-secret computer and then did so for two minutes. Epps also noted the testimony of the lead investigator that forensic examinations of Winner’s electronic devices allegedly revealed she sought methods to conceal her identity for internet searches and email exchanges, and she researched how to send information anonymously to news outlets.

“The timing strongly suggests (Winner) was planning to leak classified information from the outset of her NSA employment, while all the while swearing allegiance to the United Sates and promising to safeguard its national secrets,” Epps wrote.

Epps also found Winner to be a potential flight risk, finding she had few ties to Augusta and that she has a desire to live abroad. “While (Winner) has surrendered her passport and cannot obtain another one in her own name, this obstacle provides little assurance given her self-described desire to ‘burn the White house down’ and ‘find somewhere in Kurdistan to live … or Nepal.” Epps left off the “ha, ha,” Winner also wrote.

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

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