Air Force Vet Admitted To Leaking NSA Documents, But Her Confession Might Not Count In Court

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Reality Winner
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An Air Force veteran told FBI agents that she had leaked classified U.S. documents, but a legal technicality may prevent prosecutors from using the confession as evidence in her upcoming trial, the Associated Press reports.


Reality Winner, a 25-year-old former Air Force linguist, stands charged of copying a classified report and mailing it to a leak-friendly news site. Winner was working as a government contractor in Augusta, Georgia, when the leak occurred in early May. She held a top secret security clearance at the time.   

Winner later admitted to a pair of FBI agents that she had leaked the documents, according to a criminal complaint filed June 5 in the U.S.’s Southern Georgia District Court. The two agents were executing a search warrant at Winner’s apartment when the confession was made.

“[Winner] admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents,” according to a Department of Justice statement released on June 5.   

Winner’s defense attorneys are now asking a federal judge to suppress any comments she made during the interview because the agents never gave her a Miranda warning, which law enforcement officials must read to criminal suspects in custody. But Winner had not been formally arrested at that point.   

However, according to the AP, in a court motion filed on Aug. 29, an attorney for Winner said that she believed she was under arrest as she was being questioned in her apartment, noting that the agents were standing in front of the door.

“Winner was never told she was free to leave, nor was she advised as to her arrest status,” Winner’s attorneys wrote. “Indeed, when she specifically asked whether she was under arrest, the agents told her they did not know the answer to that ‘yet.’”  

As of Aug. 31, the judge had not yet ruled on the defense motion, nor had prosecutors filed a reply. But on Aug. 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps agreed to postpone Winner’s trial, which was due to begin in October. The case has now been rescheduled for March 2018.   

According to the AP, Winner has pleaded not guilty to charges that she illegally retained and transmitted national defense information. And while authorities have not publicly discussed what that information was or to whom Winner transmitted it to, it seems fairly obvious.

The Intercept reported in May that it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.”   

The Intercept said the NSA report was dated May 5, which is the same date that appeared on the document Winner is charged with leaking.

Soon after Winner’s arrest, The Intercept announced that its parent company, First Look Media, had decided to provide independent support for her legal defense, and argued that the leak highlighted “vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system and [provided] vital context for the current debate over Russian interference in the election.”

Winner could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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Jason P. Zaki, 32, died on Wednesday while deployed to the 609th Air Operations Center from the Pentagon, an AFCENT news release says.

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Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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"When you hear nonlethal, you are thinking rubber bullets and batons and tear gas; it's way more than that," Marine Col. Wendell Leimbach Jr., director of the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, told an audience at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.

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Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to "storm" Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel's only business - an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A'Le'Inn - parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.

Alien enthusiasts descend on the Nevada desert to 'storm' Area 51

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

Attendees arrive at the Little A'Le'Inn as an influx of tourists responding to a call to 'storm' Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019

One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.

"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."

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