Bail denied for NSA leaker who wanted to “burn the White House down”

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The NSA contractor who got caught in an amateurish theft and exposure of top-secret documents will remain in jail until trial, a federal judge ruled yesterday, thanks in part to some bombshells dropped by prosecutors in her hearing. They presented evidence that Reality Winner had discussed plans to “burn the White House down,” and to flee to Afghanistan to join the Taliban. (Perhaps Javad Zarif will be the hardest hit to learn that.)

Judge Brian Epps also wants to know what happened to a mysterious thumb drive that Winner plugged into a classified computer during her stint in the Air Force:

Prosecutors argued that the only thing Winner could do if she were released on bail is be recruited by the nation’s enemies.

Based on evidence seized from her home, federal prosecutors detailed Winner’s alleged plans to burn down the White House and travel to Afghanistan, pledging her allegiance to the Taliban.

The thumb drive was one of the concerns for Judge Epps in denying bail, but it wasn’t the only concern:

Prosecutors argued Winner had used a thumb drive to download classified documents while she was in the Air Force, CBS News’ David Begnaud reports. The thumb drive has not been found, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps said he was concerned since that drive’s location is unknown.

Epps also said he was concerned that Winner appeared to have a fascination with the Middle East and Islamic terrorism, Begnaud reports.

“Whether that’s a jest or not, it still concerns me,” Epps said.

Apparently some of this caught Winner’s family by surprise, at least according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. In another laughably amateurish bungle, Winner has been discussing the case and coaching her family members on a public-relations campaign to paint her as a frightened naïf, unaware that police regularly record jailhouse calls. Prosecutors characterized her as a cynical manipulator:

They said in recorded jailhouse calls, she told her mother how to play her side of the story in the media— as someone who was scared she’d disappear from an interrogation room in her Augusta home after Saturday’s raid. …

Prosecutors said a phone call to her sister expressed Winner’s confidence in how to play the court during her bond hearing.

“I’m pretty, white and cute,” she allegedly told her sister. Prosecutors said Winner told her sister she would braid her hair and cry in court.

Winner also told her mother that she would “go nuclear to the press if I don’t get what I want” in the bail hearing. She also made an admission that “I screwed up” with the stolen documents, which is an understatement in both specifics and scope. A few more days in jail, and Winner will give prosecutors enough to keep her behind bars for decades.

Winner pled not guilty, and her family had no comment after the hearing. That might have been the first smart move from the defense.