SAVANNAH, Ga. — A woman charged with leaking U.S. secrets must remain jailed until her trial, a federal judge ruled Thursday, saying her release would pose an “ongoing risk to national security.”
Reality Winner, 25, is a former Air Force linguist who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, when she was charged in June with copying a classified U.S. report and mailing it to a news organization.
Winner’s defense attorneys asked a judge to reconsider releasing her on bail after her trial date was postponed from October to next March. They argued Winner had no prior criminal history and served admirably in the military. Winner’s mother in Kingsville, Texas, planned to move to Georgia to ensure her daughter obeyed any terms of her bond.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps sided with prosecutors in ruling that keeping Winner jailed is the only way to ensure she doesn’t flee overseas or leak more secret information. The judge referenced prosecutors’ transcript of a Facebook chat in February in which Winner wrote to her sister: “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”
“By her own words and actions, (Winner) has painted a disturbing self-portrait of an American with years of national service and access to classified information who hates the United States and desires to damage national security on the same scale as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden,” Epps wrote.
Assange is the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Snowden is a former NSA contractor who leaked classified material exposing U.S. government surveillance programs.
The judge also said evidence against Winner appears strong, noting she confessed to FBI agents that she leaked a classified document and made similar admissions to relatives in recorded jailhouse phone calls.
Winner has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities have not publicly described the document Winner is charged with leaking, nor have they identified the news organization that received it. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on the same day The Intercept reported it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election. The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner is charged with leaking.