Contractor charged with leaking document about U.S. election hacking: sources

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for sending classified material to a news organization, poses in a picture posted to her Instagram account. Reality Winner/Social Media via REUTERS

By Dustin Volz and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday charged a federal contractor with sending classified material to a news organization that sources identified to Reuters as The Intercept, marking one of the first concrete efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on leaks to the media.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged with removing classified material from a government facility located in Georgia. She was arrested on June 3, the Justice Department said.

The charges were announced less than an hour after The Intercept published a top-secret document from the U.S. National Security Agency that described Russian efforts to launch cyber attacks on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send “spear-phishing” emails, or targeted emails that try to trick a recipient into clicking on a malicious link to steal data, to more than 100 local election officials days before the presidential election last November.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case beyond its filing. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the charges do not name the publication, a U.S. official with knowledge of the case said Winner was charged with leaking the NSA report to The Intercept. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against Winner were directly tied to it.

The Intercept’s reporting reveals new details behind the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence services were seeking to infiltrate state voter registration systems as part of a broader effort to interfere in the election, discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then Republican candidate Donald Trump win the election.

The new material does not, however, suggest that actual votes were manipulated.

The Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Winter’s mother also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While partially redacted, the NSA document is marked to show it would be up for declassification on May 5, 2042. The indictment against Winner alleges she “printed and improperly removed” classified intelligence reporting that was dated “on or about May 5, 2017.”

Classified documents are typically due to be declassified after 25 years under an executive order signed under former President Bill Clinton.

The NSA opened a facility in Augusta in 2012 at Fort Gordon, a U.S. Army outpost.

The FBI and several congressional committees are investigating how Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and whether associated of President Donald Trump may have colluded with Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign.

Trump has dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” while attempting to refocus attention on leaks of information to the media.

Winner graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 2011. Investigators determined she was one of only six individuals to print the document in question and that she had exchanged emails with the news outlet, according to the indictment.

U.S. intelligence agencies including the NSA and CIA have fallen victim to several thefts of classified material in recent years, often at the hands of a federal contractor. For example, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 disclosed secret documents to journalists, including The Intercept’s Greenwald, that revealed broad U.S. surveillance programs.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott)

China tightens rules on online news, network providers

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Tuesday issued tighter rules for online news portals and network providers, the latest step in President Xi Jinping’s push to secure the internet and maintain strict party control over content.

Xi has made China’s “cyber sovereignty” a top priority in his sweeping campaign to bolster security. He has also reasserted the ruling Communist Party’s role in limiting and guiding online discussion.

The new regulations, released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on its website, extend restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms, requiring all services to be managed by party-sanctioned editorial staff.

The rules, which come into effect on June 1, apply to all political, economic, military, or diplomatic reports or opinion articles on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information, the administration said.

All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government, it said.

Editorial work must be separate from business operations and only public funds can be used to pay for any work, it added.

Under the rules, editorial guidance measures used for the mainstream media will be applied to online providers to ensure they too adhere to the party line, such as requiring “emergency response” measures to increase vetting of content after disasters.

The rules also stipulate that a domestic business that wants to set up a joint venture with a foreign partner, or accept foreign funding, must be assessed by the State Internet Information Office.

Content on China’s internet has never been free of government censorship, though a number of internet companies run news portals that produce relatively independent reporting and opinion pieces.

A number of these platforms were shut down last year, after Xi in April called in a speech for better regulation of China’s internet.

The CAC separately on Tuesday released another set of rules that on June 1 will require “network providers and products” used by people who might touch upon “national security and the public interest” go through a new round of security reviews.

Beijing adopted a cyber security law last year that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Robert Birsel)

U.N.: Israel Attacks Not Indiscriminate

International media organizations, such as the New York Times, ABC, NBC and CBS, have been running stories from Gaza showing casualties and claiming that the Israel response to being attacked by Hamas has not been targeted like stated by Israeli leadership.

A report from the United Nations says all the anti-Israel stories are wrong.

Figures released by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights were analyzed by the BBC’s head of statistics and found that the number of civilian men killed in the attacks were almost four times higher than women.  The figures went even higher when Hamas terrorists killed were included in the total.

“If the Israeli attacks have been ‘indiscriminate,’ as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women,” Anthony Reuben said.

Reuben said the conclusions being drawn in much of the media coverage is “premature.”

Several anti-Israeli politicians, including some within the United Nations, have been calling for Israel to be investigated for war crimes because of alleged targeting of civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the statistics show Hamas has been using civilians as human shields.