Contractor charged with leaking NSA info on Russian hacking

The charges were announced shortly after The Intercept published a report, based on a highly classified intelligence report, that alleged Russian military intelligence carried out a cyberattack against a USA voting software supplier.

In the weeks leading up to last year's presidential election, Russian military intelligence launched a cyberattack on a US voting systems manufacturer, according to a classified National Security Agency report obtained by The Intercept.

The complaint filed against victor, a contractor with the Pluribus International Corporation who had top-secret security clearances, claims she printed a document with classified intelligence information and mailed it to an online news outlet in early May.

The NSA document did not say if the cyberattack had any effect on election results and admitted much is still unknown, but it "raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results", The Intercept said.

Operatives from the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, are said to have targeted employees at a USA election software company last August and then again in October.

The document victor allegedly linked is the one used as the basis for an article that ran Monday in The Intercept, which detailed a classified NSA memo, CNN reports.

Victor is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a US government agency facility in Georgia.

Victor is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation since mid-February, with a Top Secret clearance, authorities said.

In late October, the hackers set up a Gmail account that appeared to be from an employee at VR Systems and launched a spear-phishing attack in the days following against local government organizations, The Intercept reports.

The U.S. voting software company was not directly identified in the report, but is believed to be Florida-based VR Systems, which provides software for eight states: New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. They successfully gained access to "elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards", according to the document. For example, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 disclosed secret documents to journalists, including The Intercept's Greenwald, that revealed broad USA surveillance programs.

According to an application [PDF] for her arrest warrant, on May 9, Winner, who had been with Pluribus for just three months, printed out a top-secret report dated May 5 from her work PC, and posted the dossier to an unnamed news organization. The indictment against victor alleges she "printed and improperly removed" classified intelligence reporting that was dated "on or about May 5, 2017". Victor was charged with removing classified material from a government facility and sending it to a news outlet.

"My client has no (criminal) history, so it's not as if she has a pattern of having done anything like this before", Nichols said in a phone interview Monday. "She is a very good person". Victor was one of them.

A sworn affidavit from FBI Special Agent Justin Garrick only said that the document contained "defense information". According to Justice's press release, victor admitted to knowingly printing classified information and sending it to the media.

"I think she's trying to be courageous for me", Billie Winner said.

  • Jacqueline Ellis