It took just days for authorities to arrest and charge a federal contractor with leaking classified intelligence to the media. Court documents explain in detail how the 25-year-old woman suspected in the leak, Reality Leigh Winner, allegedly printed off a copy of a National Security Agency report on Russian tampering in the U.S. elections and mailed it to a news outlet.
What helped federal authorities link Winner to the leak were unrelated personal emails she had sent to the Intercept news site weeks before, which surfaced when investigators searched her computer. But how were officials able to gain access to her personal accounts? The answer, according to some former NSA analysts, is that the agency routinely monitors many of its employees’ computer activity.
The case offers a reminder that virtually every American worker in today’s economy can be tracked and reported — and you don’t even have to be the NSA to pull it off.
“She emailed the Intercept using her work computer,” said Michelle Richardson, a privacy expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington think tank. “They can monitor the traffic on their systems, look at the six people who printed the doc, and see that she was the one who had contact.”