Former Defense Intelligence Agency Employee Pleads Guilty to Leaking Classified Information to Media

February 20, 2020 Updated: February 20, 2020
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A former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee has pleaded guilty to charges related to the leaking of classified information to two journalists, the Justice Department (DOJ) said.

Henry Kyle Frese, 31, pleaded guilty on Thursday to the willful transmission of top-secret national defense information to journalists. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Frese was arrested when he arrived to work at a DIA facility in Virginia in October last year where he worked as a counterterrorism analyst. The 31-year-old—who held top-secret government security clearance—was accused of helping the journalists research information on a classified United States government computer system and providing them with classified information from five intelligence reports that he accessed, according to court documents. Some of the information was related to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapon systems. DOJ officials said the information in the report was outside the scope of Frese’s job duties as an analyst.

One of the journalists (referred to as journalist one)—who appeared to be in a relationship with Frese—published eight articles that contained the classified information from the reports between May and July of 2018.

According to court documents, Frese and journalist one lived at the same residential address from January 2018 to November 2018 and followed each other on Twitter. Moreover, Frese re-posted at least two of journalist one’s Twitter posts announcing the publication of articles containing the sensitive information.

During one incident in April 2018, journalist one asked him whether he was willing to speak to another journalist from a different news outlet. Frese said he would if it helped journalist one to “progress,” court documents said.

Officials also intercepted a call where Frese transmitted the classified information to the second journalist on the phone in an attempt to “curry favor with journalist two to advance journalist one’s career.”

Prosecutors also said that Frese conducted searches on classified government systems for information regarding the classified topics he discussed with the two journalists on at least 30 separate occasions. He also communicated with an employee of an overseas consulting group via social media and provided classified information to a consultant on at least two occasions, officials said.

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement.

“He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk,” Demers added.

Demers’s remarks were echoed by Robert Wells, acting assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

“Mr. Frese violated his sworn oath to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States by using his access to the United States’ most sensitive information and steal state secrets for nothing more than personal gain,” Wells said.

Frese’s case is one in a series of prosecutions under the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on leaks by government workers. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to take a stance on leaks and had charged at least six individuals with leaks in just over two years.

Last month, an employee from the Department of Treasury pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally leak documents to a journalist. Former Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) senior official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards faces up to five years in prison for illegally leaking suspicious activity reports (SARs) on financial transactions by former Trump-campaign associates Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Russian Embassy, and Maria Butina, among others, in 2017 and 2018.

Frese is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18.

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