/Intelligence employee leaked top secret information to reporter with whom he was romantically involved, feds say

Intelligence employee leaked top secret information to reporter with whom he was romantically involved, feds say

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WASHINGTON — A 30-year-old counter-terrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested Wednesday on accusations that he disclosed classified information to two journalists, one of whom he had a romantic relationship with, federal prosecutors said.

Henry Kyle Frese, of Alexandria, was charged with two counts of willful transmission of national defense information, each carrying a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. 

“Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement. “Frese betrayed the trust placed in him by the American people – a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country.”

Federal prosecutors say Frese, whose government security clearance allowed him access to top secret and sensitive information, researched multiple classified intelligence reports — some of which were unrelated to his job duties — and leaked information about a foreign country’s weapons systems to a journalist. Prosecutors alleged that Frese, who worked as both a contractor and a full-time employee for DIA, was in a relationship with that journalist and sought to advance the reporter’s career. 

The unauthorized disclosures happened in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, from August 2017 to August 2018, Frese and the reporter lived together, authorities say. 

In April 2018, after Frese accessed one of the intelligence reports, the journalist asked if he’d be willing to speak with another reporter, prosecutors said. Frese then said he was “down” to help the second journalist — a colleague at an affiliated but different news outlet, authorities say. 

The journalist linked romantically to Frese published at least eight articles containing classified information provided by the analyst, authorities say. 

Authorities did not name the two journalists involved and did not identify their news organizations.   

Federal authorities said Frese was “captured” last month on court-authorized surveillance of his cell phone orally transmitting classified national defense information to the second journalist

“Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with top secret information related to the national defense of our country,” said Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, Va. “Frese allegedly violated that trust, the oath he swore to uphold, and is charged with engaging in dastardly and felonious conduct at the expense of our country. This indictment should serve as a clear reminder to all of those similarly entrusted with National Defense Information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.”

Frese’s is one of six criminal cases the Justice Department has filed related to unauthorized disclosures in the last two years, the agency said.

Citing a search of telephone records, prosecutors alleged that Frese’s phone listed 508 total calls and 37 text messages with the reporter he was dating. Those contacts ranged from March 1, 2018 through October 7, 2019. The same phone showed 22 calls and 150 text messages with the second reporter, from May 1, 2018 through October 7, 2019.

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