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Government The Courts Communications Media The Internet United States News Politics

DOJ Charges Federal Contractor With Leaking Classified Info To Media (thehill.com) 241

schwit1 quotes a report from The Hill: The Department of Justice charged 25-year-old government contractor Reality Leigh Winner with sharing top secret material with a media outlet, prosecutors announced in a press release Monday. Court documents filed by the government don't specify which media outlet received the materials allegedly leaked by Winner, but NBC News reported that the material went to the Intercept online news outlet. The Intercept published a top secret NSA report Monday that alleged Russian military intelligence launched a 2016 cyberattack on a voting software company. Details on the report published by The Intercept suggest that it was created on May 5, 2017 -- the same day prosecutors say the materials Winner is charged with sharing were created. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether Winner is accused of sharing the report published by the Intercept. Last month, Winner allegedly "printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information" before mailing the materials to an unnamed online news outlet a few days later, according to prosecutors.
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DOJ Charges Federal Contractor With Leaking Classified Info To Media

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  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:02AM (#54558789)

    When Reality finally struck, no-one went home a Winner :(

    • It looks like the NSA's fall-guy random name generator had a bit of a misfire.

      • Hell, I dunno...."Reality Winner", if that's not the winner of the Snowflake of The Year award, I dunno what could be.

        I"ll bet the helicopter parents are *still* hovering just outside her door.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:07AM (#54558841) Homepage Journal
    Truly the "social sharing" generation!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:13AM (#54558885)
    It looks like Reality Winner is really Reality Loooouu-zah.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:14AM (#54558899)

    I personally think too much stuff is marked as classified which really shouldn't be. Because it is mostly common knowledge, we just don't have the details. However if you are going to leak classified info. Please leak in quality not quantity. I much rather see a report about a leak every few years about something really actionable. About some injustice that is only classified because it makes the ruling people look bad, and is something truly affecting ones conscious.

    These little leaks in a state where we are ruled by a 12 year old in a 70 year old body. We are much better putting him in a state of false security where his overconfidence will lead to real mistakes and the leak can hit like a dagger. Vs a constant irritant .

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:32AM (#54559051)
      Information (generally) isn't classified because the information is good - it's almost always because of the method used to collect it. The goal isn't necessarily to protect the information, so much as the means by which they got that information. I can't speak to the current situation, but that's usually the case with classification. It doesn't then matter if that's information about the next terrorist attack, or about what kind of toilet paper Abu Bad Guy prefers because it doesn't chafe his backside.

      Having the Japanese Navy know that we're aware they plan to attack Midway is bad, but having them realize that means we're reading their coded transmissions is far, far worse. It means they'll change their codes, and we can't read them any more. If it was a human agent, it means that guy is probably going to get shot, or at the very least will have to run and won't be able to send any more reports.
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        Yes I think your points are lost on a lot of people, even the leakers.

        I not a big fan of leakers, unless like Snowden they can go a long way to demonstrating they tried very hard to work within the system first. Leaks of this type can be highly damaging to intelligence efforts and yet remain almost useless to the public. That Russia or any other sometimes or always hostile power might try and tamper with electronic voting: DUH!

        What I actually would find interesting is the the methods used to analyze and

        • I not a big fan of leakers, unless like Snowden they can go a long way to demonstrating they tried very hard to work within the system first.

          And just as important, leak something that's going to stay secret, like corruption, or US agencies violating the law. The whole point of Snowden's data dump was to reveal that the NSA was illegally collecting information on Americans, for policy rationales they did not have a legal right to institute.

          The NSA was not going to keep secret that the Russians tried to hack American vote gathering machines. She bought herself a 15 year prison sentence for revealing nothing. I'm still trying to figure out wheth

      • Close but no cigar.

        Information often (maybe too often) carries the classification, for example war plans. The vast amount of Secret material is information.

        Sources and Methods Information (SAMI) often carries a higher classification (Top Secret and SCI). You are correct that the SAMI stuff is the stuff that causes real long lasting damage if disclosed.

      • That's what was learned after the war; the Japanese weren't changing the codes, and they did know we'd cracked them. Because it would imply the emperor wasn't a God, or something like that. So they just swept the problem under the rug and sailed right into an honorable death.

        The Germans are a much better example to make your point using WWII.

    • Let me see if I understand...

      You want the president to make more mistakes?

      • If the president is doing something wrong, then I would like him to make mistakes so we know about it so we can take actionable corrective actions against it.

        I want a president who will work for my country and handle the big picture problems, even if I disagree with the answer. With Trump, he is just trying to appease his ego. Ignoring the big picture and putting us in risk.

        This type of personally in my experience will tend to screw up at some point, and either we let him get away from it, or confront it.

        • That doesn't jibe well, with the last paragraph of your first post. You stated that you believe we'd be better off if we enabled him to make mistakes, seemingly so that you can catch him making mistakes - without regards to the outcome of those mistakes.

          I am not sure what kind of person thinks like that, honestly.

          To put it out there, I dislike Trump - a great deal. However, I kinda hope he does well as president. I don't actually want him to make mistakes. Ideally, he'll be a great president and continue to

  • Winner, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation, began working for a government agency based in Georgia in February.

    Most agencies have offices all over the country, but which one is based in Georgia, other than the CDC? If this contractor was working for the CDC why would he have access to cyberhacking information? Cover?
     

    • Re:Which Agency? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:33AM (#54559067)

      Winner, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation, began working for a government agency based in Georgia in February.

      Most agencies have offices all over the country, but which one is based in Georgia, other than the CDC? If this contractor was working for the CDC why would he have access to cyberhacking information? Cover?

      It's a poorly worded sentence. The agency in question is the NSA and the company, Pluribus International, is based out of Georgia. Or at least the leaker was. The article I read this morning made it clear that it was an NSA document that was leaked, the NSA that tracked the leak down, and an NSA system was used to find the document to begin with.

  • "Reality Winner" perhaps she considered this was her ace up her sleeve.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]

  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:26AM (#54558993) Homepage Journal

    When the leak came out the usual suspects trotted out the usual nonsense:

    1. The NSA were clearly lying and these were bogus because Russia is our friend
    2. This is obviously "the deep state" (ie management of the NSA, CIA, etc) trying to undermine Cheeto Mussolini with fake news. Sad!

    ...until Sessions announced he'd found the leaker and was pressing charges. And then, all of a sudden, we get the usual right-wing "background check" of the leaker, and she's an "SJW" (bad! Boo!) according to them, and she's a contractor, according to Sessions. The latter is actually the important bit, though it's amusing if she's also the leftyish owner of the Twitter account identified by the rightosphere.

    What did the campaign against Winners prove? The docs are the real deal. The NSA does, actually, genuinely believe that the Russian state was actively trying to interfere with the election. They're not making that up. They have evidence - they're not sharing it with you but they have it. They're not trying to undermine anyone, no matter how awful they are. Hell, they're still trying to keep this stuff secret. They're actually trying to protect Trump from negative publicity.

    As for Winners, the jokes - based upon her name - write themselves. But yes, she's the real deal. Sessions is confirming she leaked real NSA documents. The rightosphere is confirming she's not some high level intelligence official trying to orchestrate a coup. The NSA documents are legit: Russia interfered with the election.

    • by naubol ( 566278 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:29AM (#54559027)
      God, I have to scroll to the bottom to get to the one comment actually analyzing the situation.
    • by NetNed ( 955141 )
      So wait, if Russia is NOT our friends AND they tried to interfere in our election, why would we, or more correctly the NSA, not want to undermine them? So we have a leaker that got caught the very day the article is published, her name is Reality Winners or all names, and even though she has had ALL KINDS of pro Sanders/Anti-Trump tweets and social media posts that were easily found she was still allowed to hold top secret security clearance. Who would ever doubt this unbelievable string of events??
      • by NetNed ( 955141 )
        Add to that the report being full of "could have" "might have" and "possibility".

        It's funny. It was proven that the CIA has a 60 million dollar deal with the Washington Post to allow it to feed stories yet every time a report or leak comes out people that 10 years ago would never trust this crap claim it's "all legit" in an almost "move along, nothing to see here" kind of manner.
      • What does having "ALL KINDS of pro Sanders/Anti-Trump tweets and social media posts" have to do with being able to have a TS clearance?

        I sure hope we NEVER start basing security clearances on an individuals legitimate political beliefs because that would be what "McCarthyism" was all about.

        • I sure hope we NEVER start basing security clearances on an individuals legitimate political beliefs because that would be what "McCarthyism" was all about.

          But...it can keep you out of Harvard....

    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:46AM (#54559183)

      The only facts are
      - for some stupid reason, we have electronic voting machines
      - they may be vulnerable to hacking
      - some hackers tried to hack them, including Russians

      So what? If your government uses electronic voting machines, expect stories about them getting hacked from time to time.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      ...until Sessions announced he'd found the leaker and was pressing charges. And then, all of a sudden, we get the usual right-wing "background check"

      If they do this for somebody so low on the ladder, can you imagine the witch hunt they would do if it where somebody much higher up who spilled secret information to foreign states that are not really allies? What? They don't? How do you spell hypocrite again??

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Color printers use a pattern of tiny yellow dots to embed an almost invisible code with the printer serial number and the date and time in every printed document. The Intercept handed over a scan of the document to the NSA for redaction with the code still intact. It is also in the published document. The EFF has the technical details. [eff.org]

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      I read the EFF article cited but I could not see any yellow dots in their photos. I guess I must have coughed too much coffee on my monitor reading Slashdot.

  • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:34AM (#54559075) Homepage
    While the means might be old news to some, it appears that neither Reality Winner nor The Intercept was sufficiently aware of hardcoded printer tracking techology, or just didn't think to check for it and take preventative steps. I can kind of understand that from Winner who might have just acted on the spur of an opportunistic moment, but The Intercept really ought to have known better and cleaned up the PDFs before publishing, and that may well deter people from leaking to The Intercept in future if they're not confident in their own ability to properly sanitise the data.

    Going to be interesting to see how The Intercept tries to make up for their part in her now almost certainly ruined life...
    • by JeffOwl ( 2858633 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @09:12AM (#54559383)
      The article doesn't say that's how they found her. They say that an audit showed six people printed the doc. That is from the IT system logs. Of those six, only one had email correspondence with that particular media outlet. If I have read the story correctly that's how they narrowed it down. When questioned she admitted it. The fact that she worked for the NSA (even as a contractor) and used email to talk to reporters is baffling.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @08:38AM (#54559111)
    Printing out a document on an NSA printer, scanning that print out and releasing it to a shady Russian-front site. Now that's just dumb. Inkjets (not only ones in NSA buildings) can embed codes in their printouts and you'd better believe the NSA is going to have logs of who printed out what and when.

    I guess we can thank her for confirming the NSA discovered Russian interference but most reasonable people would have known that already even if they weren't privy to the details. She'll probably end up in prison for 5-10 years over this.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @09:21AM (#54559475)

      Seems like printers are a lot more secure and their output a lot more traceable than voting machines.

  • There have been a large number of politically motivated leaks lately. At one point things got so bad the Brits publicly declared they wouldn't share intel anymore.

    So far this is the first of these leaks to actually result in an arrest. Several well known leaks came when only a small handful of high level people could have gotten the data to begin with. The FBI needs to arrest all of the people doing the leaking, not just low level contractors. Perhaps this arrest is just the first in series, can it really b

    • Aren't all intelligence leaks politically motivated?

      • Some are motivated by greed - Aldrich Ames is one such example.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Valid point, point conceded.

          I'm still (pretty) sure that the majority are politically motivated. From Snowden to Manning, they seem to usually be motivated by politics. Ames may have also had a political component, IIRC. Though, as you say, his primary motivation was financial. It's been a while since I've read the specifics, so I'm not sure if I'm misremembering him also having a political motivation.

      • Nope, MICE is the most common set, though some argue for a slightly different set that is similar: Money Ideology Compromise Coercion
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I'd think that Ideology is certainly political. The latter two *may* also be political. I've not heard of anyone doing it, just for money, in ages. I may have missed someone, but I can't think of any recent examples.

    • Indeed. If they want to engage in criminal activity in support of their pet political aims, they'll have to accept the consequences if/when caught.

    • Not if it's done by a someone who is stupid enough to print it out on their printer, and then forward it almost straight away to a news agency.
      If you are a bit more careful, well then things get a lot more difficult to trace.
    • So far this is the first of these leaks to actually result in an arrest. Several well known leaks came when only a small handful of high level people could have gotten the data to begin with. The FBI needs to arrest all of the people doing the leaking, not just low level contractors. Perhaps this arrest is just the first in series, can it really be that hard to track down these leaks?

      Probably a lot more harder than this one. She looked at the document, printed it out, then apparently emailed the people who got it, and when questioned, admitted to doing it. I figure the intelligence industry is probably more secure than the healthcare industry, and the healthcare industry has records of who looked at what and everybody know it. Those high level leakers probably took steps to not do stupid things to begin with that would immediately lead back to them. If they were one of many people to lo

  • The amount of work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @09:07AM (#54559329)

    the government will put into adding credibility into a story is amazing.

    Like I said in a different thread:

    After what happened with Snowden, what do you think the odds are that a contractor can both obtain and distribute a NSA document at all without anyone from the NSA noticing ?

    I have serious doubts about it and my initial thoughts are this is just the Government pushing the Evil Russians narrative vs the home grown ( DNC ) efforts to skew the election.

    Because the former is expected and the latter undermines the trust in the overall US election process. Can't have that now can we ? Bad things happen in armed countries when the populace loses faith in the election systems.

    Russia just happens to be a convenient scapegoat for anything that's wrong these days.

    Even IF the NSA verifies the document and shows you the evidence they have, after the bullshit they have pulled recently with their surveillance programs, would you trust any of it ?

    Dear NSA: That's the problem when you erode / destroy the public trust. When you have a real situation where you need folks to believe you, very few will.

    If any at all.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      So you thought that it is/was not possible to influence elections? The US government thinks otherwise. And as somebody living in Europe, yes we know what happens if people are unhappy.

      You can't fool all the people all the time. It just take some time.

    • "After what happened with Snowden, what do you think the odds are that a contractor can both obtain and distribute a NSA document at all without anyone from the NSA noticing ?"

      You clearly don't know anything on the subject. Old rules are better enforced, New rules in place, but it is still reliance on humans, and they are imperfect.

      Finding the source after a leak is near trivial, which should be a deterrent. But stopping all leaks requires more watchers asking more questions, reviewing more logs, and not ma

    • Bad things happen in armed countries when the populace loses faith in the election systems.

      The important point about a mass, armed uprising is that it is a mass uprising, not that it is armed.

      If you piss enough people off, it doesn't matter if they've only got bits of wood with nails in as weapons, you can't kill all of them.

  • In December 2016 Obama stated:

    And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.

    And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through Wikileaks had already occurred.

    So when I look back in terms of how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled. We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.

    So, at the time that Obama made these comments, the NSA had evidence that Russia was continuing with hacking efforts. Tough guy!

  • by RoccamOccam ( 953524 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @09:58AM (#54559917)
    From The Hill [thehill.com]:

    The report does not claim that voting machines were hacked, a once-popular post-election theory from Democrats, nor does it state whether the information pertaining to the voting systems could be used to hack those systems.

    As opined by Matt Vespa> [townhall.com], "still, 55 percent of Democrats [hotair.com] think that Russia messed with the vote totals to get Trump elected. The Left has gone insane [townhall.com]. Like the rest of the Russian collusion drama, there is no evidence that vote tallies were tampered with by a foreign intelligence service."

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The standard argument against the possibility of hacking an American is that it's impossible given the decentralized nature of American elections. But the people making this argument aren't hackers, and they don't understand how hackers think. They seem to believe that a hacker would try to brute force hack every election district in America.

      If *you* were going to try to hack the US elections, would you do it that way?

      I know what I'd do: I'd probe the system looking for vulnerable installations in swing sta

    • "The Left has gone insane".

      Each side learns from each other, and the strategies and tactics that are proven to work in one election cycle have a tendency to be used by the opposition parties in subsequent election cycles. We are now in the 2018-2020 cycle.

  • In Theory, no one would steal documents from the NSA.

    In Reality...

    (rimshot)

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

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