Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old accused of leaking classified government documents to the media, pleaded not guilty on Thursday, June 8. During the court hearing, prosecutors provided evidence that the government contractor planned to release top secret information, claiming to have found notes written by Winner saying she wanted to "burn the White House down" and move to Nepal or Kurdistan, the HuffPost reports.
Winner was accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) information after The Intercept published a story about an NSA document detailing evidence of attempts to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election by Russia. The agency asked The Intercept not to publish the document and declined to comment for the story. The publication has said it doesn't know who provided the classified information; the NSA claims it was Winner.
The NSA announced that Winner was criminally charged for leaking classified government documents shortly after the article was published, saying she was arrested by the FBI a few days prior. The NSA's press release claims Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reports.
Winner's attorney, Titus Thomas Nichols, told The Associated Press, "My client has no (criminal) history, so it's not as if she has a pattern of having done anything like this before. She is a very good person. All this craziness has happened all of a sudden."
Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked classified information in 2013 and advocates for more government transparency, called for Winner to be released on bail pending her trial. In a statement posted on the Freedom of the Press Foundation's website, he said the Espionage Act "provides no space to distinguish the extraordinary disclosure of inappropriately classified information in the public interest — whistleblowing — from the malicious disclosure of secrets to foreign governments by those motivated by a specific intent to harm to their countrymen."
If convicted, Winner could spend up to 10 years in prison.