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.
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.
“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.
Frese is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18.