A former defense analyst who pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with two journalists—one of whom he was dating—was sentenced to 30 months in prison on June 18.
Henry Kyle Frese, 31, admitted in February to willfully transmitting top-secret information to reporters. He had faced up to 10 years in prison.
“Frese repeatedly passed classified information to a reporter, sometimes in response to her requests, all for personal gain,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
“When this information was published, it was shared with all of our nation’s adversaries, creating a risk of exceptionally grave harm to the security of this country. His conviction and sentence demonstrate the Department’s commitment to the investigation and prosecution of such betrayals by clearance holders as part of our mandate to protect our citizens and defend the national security of the United States.”
Information in court documents points to two reporters who work for NBC Universal, Amanda Macias and Courtney Kube.
CNBC and MSNBC, the news outlets they work for, published eight articles in mid-2018 containing classified national defense information relating to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapons systems, according to a court document. One reporter was the author of all those articles.
A review of CNBC’s website uncovered a number of articles from Macias about Russian and Chinese weapons systems.
Other information points to the identities of the reporters. The same document says one of the journalists posted on Twitter a link to an article in early July 2018, “noting it was the first co-authored piece of the pair.”
“On Journalist 2’s personal Twitter page, Journalist 2 Tweeted a link to the article and stated Journalist 1 was a ‘colleague’ who helped co-author the news article,” an agent wrote.
NBC’s @ckubeNBC and I break in our first shared byline.
Beijing is in the midst of conducting a series of anti-ship missile tests in the South China Sea.
These contested waters serve as a gateway to global sea routes where approximately $3.4 trillion in trade pass annually. https://t.co/G6srwEoUbl
— Amanda Macias (@amanda_m_macias) July 1, 2019
Court documents say Frese was romantically involved with one of the journalists and that he followed her and shared on Twitter several of her articles that were based on information he had given. Frese followed Macias on Twitter. He was also pictured with her in a post she made on Instagram in 2017.
According to the documents, Frese and Macias lived together at the same residence from January 2018 to November 2019. The reporter introduced the second reporter to Frese in April 2019.
NBC Universal didn’t respond to a request for comment, including an inquiry on whether a reporter having a relationship with a source would violate its rules. Both reporters still hold their jobs.
In communications intercepted by federal agents, Frese said his motivation was to help Macias “progress.”
Between mid-2018 and September 2019, Frese gave top-secret classified information to Macias on 12 occasions and secret classified information on at least four occasions. Some of the 30-plus searches Frese made on classified systems for information were made after specific requests for information from the journalists.
The analyst also transmitted classified information to an unidentified overseas consulting group via social media at least twice.
Frese knew the information was classified because the products had clear markings stating the classification levels.
“When Mr. Frese chose to provide classified information to members of the media, he violated his oath to serve the United States as a trusted government employee,” Timothy Slater, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement.
“Put in the hands of our adversaries, this information causes damage and harm to our country. This investigation and today’s sentencing serve as a reminder that unauthorized disclosures of classified information is a crime, and will not be tolerated.”