Reality Winner's security clearance prompts questions from senators

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Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management Thursday questioning the security clearance process for Reality Winner, the National Security Agency contractor accused of allegedly leaking classified information about attempted Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election.

Johnson, R-Wis., and McCaskill, D-Mo., wrote Kathleen McGettigan, the Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management, that they were looking for answers to the process under which the federal government issues, monitors, and investigates those with security clearances.

“Ms. Winner allegedly chose to put Americans and our national security at risk when she leaked classified materials,” Johnson said. “It is my hope that OPM will do a thorough review of her security clearance, and determine if it was granted appropriately.”

Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran, was accused of leaking a classified intelligence report containing “Top Secret Level” information to an online news site last week. The report, according to the Department of Justice, contained classified defense information from an intelligence community agency.

Johnson and McCaskill’s letter requested responses by June 29 to questions on which agency conducted initial clearance investigation for Winner, what levels of clearance Winner had, and more information regarding security clearance re-investigations.


The letter also requests information on how a security clearance continues when an individual, like Winner, moves from the military to the private sector.

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