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US Arrests Contractor Accused of Leaking Classified Document to News Site


An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday the arrest of a government contractor it said sent classified material to an online news outlet.

The announcement came the same day as the release of a report by The Intercept, which said it had obtained a classified document showing Russian military intelligence tried to hack into U.S. voter registration systems before last year's elections.

An affidavit submitted by an FBI special agent said the arrested woman, Reality Leigh Winner, admitted to printing classified intelligence reporting and mailing it to a news outlet.

The affidavit also says a U.S. intelligence community agency determined in its investigation that Winner was among six people who had printed the document and that she had email contact with the unnamed news outlet.

The same dates appear in both the document mentioned in the affidavit and the one cited by The Intercept.

The government did not say from which agency Winner allegedly took the top-secret document, only that she was assigned to work at a U.S. government facility in the state of Georgia.

The Intercept reported that the top-secret National Security Agency document it obtained said the Russian hackers spent months trying to gain access to computers used by local election officials.

The effort involved so-called phishing techniques used to trick people into unwittingly handing over login information that hackers can then use to access data.

The first target was companies that provide local governments with software to manage voter registrations. Subsequent attacks targeted the local election officials themselves in the days before the November 8 vote.

It is unclear how successful the hackers were.The Intercept says the NSA analysis "does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election's outcome."

The U.S. intelligence community issued a report in January saying it assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign targeting the U.S. election. The goal was to both undermine faith in the process and harm former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chance of winning against now-President Donald Trump.

That report said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's assessment was that the types of systems the Russians "targeted or compromised" were not involved in counting votes.

Two U.S. congressional committees and a special counsel named by the Justice Department are investigating Russia's efforts targeting the U.S. election, as well as whether anyone in Trump's campaign colluded with the Russians.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Russia strongly denies the accusations it tried to infiltrate the voting systems.

"This assertion has absolutely nothing to do with reality," he said.

Putin previously denied that the Russian government meddled in the election, but said that Russian "patriots" with no ties to the government may have been involved in hacking.