Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner wrote, ‘I want to burn the White House down’: Prosecutors
Prosecutors said Reality Leigh Winner — the 25-year-old accused of leaking classified National Security Agency documents — wrote in a notebook, “I want to burn the White House down,” CBS News reported.
The accusation came during a U.S. district court hearing Thursday in which a Georgia judge denied bail to Winner, CBS News said. Winner pleaded not guilty to charges that she illegally retained and transmitted national defense information, the outlet reported, adding that the federal crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps expressed concern that Winner was apparently fascinated with the Middle East and Islamic terrorism, CBS News said.
Prosecutor Jennifer Solari said investigators seized a notebook from Winner’s house in Augusta, Georgia, CBS News reported, and that Winner wrote of traveling to the Middle East, writing at one point, “I want to burn the White House down … find somewhere in Kurdistan to live. Haha.”
“The government is not in any way suggesting the defendant has become a jihadist or that she is a Taliban sympathizer,” Solari said in court, CBS News reported.
Prosecutors also said Winner — a former Air Force linguist who speaks Farsi and Arabic — used a thumb drive to download classified documents while she was in the Air Force, CBS News said, adding that the thumb drive has not been located.
Winner, who worked for a U.S. government contractor in Augusta, was arrested Saturday by FBI agents and has been jailed in Lincoln County, Georgia, CBS News said.
Prosecutors said recorded jailhouse calls indicate Winner told her mother how to detail to the media her fear she’d disappear from an interrogation room in her Augusta home after Saturday’s raid, WSB-TV reported.
Billie Winner-Davis revealed that her daughter called her on Saturday and told her that she was in trouble, and that she had spoken with her since her arrest.
“She was afraid she was going to disappear, that [the government was] going to make her disappear,” Winner-Davis said. “And she felt like she needed to give them what they were asking for at the time.”
Indeed, Winner’s mother told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that her daughter “was afraid she was going to disappear, that [the government was] going to make her disappear. And she felt like she needed to give them what they were asking for at the time.”
More from WSB:
Winner opted to stay in her house for questioning and confessed her intent to release damaging classified material to an online media outlet she “admired,” directing agents to find a screenshot of the mailing drop box for The Intercept on her cellphone. The material is described as top secret, detailing a Russian military intelligence attack on a U.S. voting supplier.
“She has no history of being a threat to this nation. Only an asset,” Gary Davis, Winner’s stepfather, told WSB.
Prosecutors also said Winner told her sister in a phone call how she’d act in court to gain sympathy, WSB said.
“I’m pretty, white and cute,” Winner allegedly told her sister, WSB reported, adding that prosecutors said Winner also told her sister that she’d braid her hair and cry in the courtroom.
Prosecutors also said Winner told family members to transfer $30,000 into her mother’s account so she’d appear poor enough for a court-appointed attorney, WSB added.
“She offered up her life for this nation and to see her treated so vilely is an insult to every person who’s ever worn a uniform,” Davis told WSB.