Suspect in NSA leak being held in Lincolnton jail


Lincolnton -- The Augusta woman who has been arrested in the National Security Agency leak investigation is being held at a small county jail here, about 40 miles northwest of Augusta. 

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter spotted Reality Leigh Winner Wednesday afternoon as she was standing in an outdoor area of the Lincoln County Jail. She was pacing in the fenced-in area, wearing an orange jumpsuit. 

Winner, 25, is receiving three meals a day and has access to a phone to call her family, said Sheriff Bruce Beggs. A doctor is on call and a nurse comes twice a day, partly to dispense medication. 

“As far as I know, she is fine,” Beggs said. “We have not had any problems.” 

Winner has been charged with sending to the news media a classified government report about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. Justice Department announced her arrest Monday, about an hour after The Intercept reported that it had obtained a top-secret NSA report about Russia’s interference. The intelligence report, according to The Intercept, says Russian military intelligence officials tried to hack into the U.S. voting system just before last November’s election. 

RELATED: Documents, computers seized from home of Augusta contractor

RELATED: Augusta contractor charged with mishandling top-secret U.S. materials  

IN-DEPTH: Augusta at center of NSA leak investigation

Beggs would not permit The AJC to see inside the jail, citing security concerns. But he gave an AJC reporter a tour of the brick facility from the outside. 

Originally built in 1991, the jail can hold up to 90 detainees. Of the 50 who were being held there Wednesday, fewer than 15 were women, Beggs said. Men and women are separated from each other in the jail, which includes medium and maximum security wings. The federal government reimburses the jail for holding and transporting its detainees. On average, two-thirds of those being held there are facing federal charges. 

“They get served decent meals,” said Beggs, a Lincolnton native and a veteran of the Lincoln Sheriff’s Office. “They get adequate medical care.” 

Beggs said he has received up to 20 phone calls from reporters from across the country about Winner’s case. 

“I don’t know anything about her background,” he said, “or really what she is charged with.”


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