Senators seek answers on alleged NSA leaker’s security clearance

Senators seek answers on alleged NSA leaker’s security clearance

The leaders of a key Senate panel are pressing the federal government for information about the security clearance of a government contractor recently accused of passing classified material to a news outlet. 

Reality Leigh Winner was arrested by the FBI in early June and charged in federal court with violating a section of the Espionage Act. Her arrest has been linked to The Intercept’s publication of a purported classified National Security Agency document detailing Russian hacking efforts aimed at U.S. election and voting infrastructure.

Winner, an Air Force veteran, had worked as a contractor at Pluribus International Corporation, was assigned to a government facility in Georgia and held a top-secret clearance, according to the criminal complaint. 


On Thursday, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy 10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (R-Wis.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE (D-Mo.) wrote to the head of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) seeking more information about which government agency conducted Winner’s initial security clearance and when. They also asked they agency to disclose the last time Winner was reinvestigated as part of her active security clearance, in addition to other inquiries.

“The leaking of classified information jeopardizes our national security,” McCaskill said in a statement. “We need to determine if Ms. Winner’s security clearance process was handled correctly or if we missed any red flags.” 

Together, Johnson and McCaskill lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The letter was sent to Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of OPM. The lawmakers also asked the agency to explain the process by which a member of the military has a security clearance “reactivated or transferred” in order to be employed by the intelligence community, given Winner’s previous service in the Air Force. 

Additionally, the senators asked what OPM is doing to comply with with a provision included in an appropriations measure passed last year that mandated a review of the federal government’s enhanced security clearance program. 

Winner was arrested at her home in Georgia on June 3 and the Department of Justice announced the charges days later. Winner allegedly printed and improperly removed classified intelligence in early May and later sent it by mail to an online news outlet. 

Winner’s arrest was the latest in a string of leak incidents, an issue that has attracted attention since ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures to news publications in 2013.

In February, former NSA contractor Harold Martin was indicted for stealing thousands of intelligence files, including classified documents from the NSA, CIA and U.S. Cyber Command.