NSA leak suspect Reality Winner wrote 'burn the White House down': prosecutors

Reality Winner exiting the Augusta Courthouse in Augusta, Georgia on June 8, 2017.
Reality Winner exiting the Augusta Courthouse in Augusta, Georgia on June 8, 2017.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A 25-year-old intelligence contractor accused of leaking a top secret report on Russian meddling in last year's US election wrote in a note that she wanted to "burn the White House down", prosecutors said.

Reality Winner appeared in federal court on Thursday (June 8) in Georgia and pleaded not guilty to a charge of "willful retention and transmission of national defense information," ABC News reported.

Winner's is the latest in a string of cases involving breaches at the National Security Agency (NSA), a code-breaking agency still smarting from Edward Snowden's 2013 disclosures of its global surveillance programs.

The former Air Force linguist was arrested last Saturday (June 3) for allegedly giving a document to news website The Intercept that detailed attempts by hackers from Russian military intelligence to penetrate a company that sells voter registration software as well as local election officials.

Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Solari said agents searching Winner's home found handwritten notes in several languages, including one that said "I want to burn the White House down", ABC News and The Augusta Chronicle reported.

Her social media accounts had revealed a deep dislike of President Donald Trump, with one post calling him "the orange fascist". Other notes found at her home included details on how to access the "dark web," set up a burner e-mail account and listed the names of Taleban leaders, news reports said.

Winner, who worked for NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation in Augusta, Georgia, was a specialist in Pashto, Farsi and Dari, languages spoken in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, her mother has said.

Ms Solari warned that Winner may possess more stolen secrets.

Judge Brian Epps denied bail, meaning Winner will stay behind bars until trial, after Ms Solari said some of the evidence was "downright frightening". Her lawyer Titus Nichols rejected that characterisation, saying his client has no history of violence. He said his Winner is just a millennial comfortable with technology.