Concerned that accused National Security Agency leaker Reality Winner, 25, might try to flee the U.S. if released on bond, a federal judge on Thursday ordered that she stay in jail until her trial. Prosecutors are also concerned that she may have stolen even more secrets.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari told the judge that Winner had written in a notebook: “I want to burn the White House Down … find somewhere in Kurdistan to live. Ha-ha!”
Dressed in prison garb and leg shackles, Winner pleaded not guilty in U.S. district court to charges that she illegally retained and transmitted national defense information. Conviction of the crime would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Winner speaks Arabic and Farsi and had a top-secret security clearance while she was working as a government contractor in Augusta. Prosecutors say she copied and mailed a classified report containing top-secret material to an online news organization.
The Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on Monday. This was the same day that The Intercept reported that they obtained a classified NSA report dated May 5 suggesting that Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election.
Solari said investigators have discovered that while she was working for the Air Force, “Winner inserted a portable hard drive in a top-secret Air Force computer before she left the military last year.” She added that authorities don’t know what was on the drive or where it is now.
In addition, Winner was adept at using the internet to access black markets online and could buy anything — including fake ID — without revealing her identity or location.
“We don’t know how much more she knows and how much more she remembers,” Solari said. “But we do know she’s very intelligent. So she’s got a lot of valuable information in her head.”
Winner’s mother and stepfather offered up their 20-acre home in Kingsville, Texas to finance their daughter’s bond, promising that she would never try to flee, but the judge was unconvinced.
“Because my client is a millennial and she knows how to use technology, that’s somehow proof of evil intent,” said Titus Nichols, Winner’s defense attorney. “The government is scraping and clawing to build a mountain out of a molehill.”
However, Solari pointed out that during one of her phone calls from jail, which were recorded, Winner said she planned to “play that card: being pretty, white and cute.” In another call to her mother, she also confessed, saying, “Mom, those documents. I screwed up.”
“The government is not in any way suggesting the defendant has become a jihadist or that she is a Taliban sympathizer,” Solari told the judge.
According to an FBI affidavit, Winner confessed to copying and mailing the classified report when agents searched her home Saturday, seizing cellphones, computers and Winner’s passport.
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