WASHINGTON – An employee of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested Wednesday and charged with leaking classified information to two journalists in 2018 and 2019, the Department of Justice said.
Henry Kyle Frese, 30, who had Top Secret security clearance, allegedly accessed classified intelligence documents between mid-April and early May 2018, some of which were unrelated to his job duties, the DOJ said in a statement.
“The unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States,” the DOJ wrote in the statement.
Citing court documents, the department said Frese then provided this information regarding a foreign country’s weapons systems to a journalist, identified as Journalist 1.
According to the court documents, both the accused and Journalist 1 had the same residential address between August 2017 and August 2018 and were apparently romantically involved during some or all of that time period based on the DOJ’s review of their social media pages.
The indictment alleges Journalist 1 wrote to Frese on April 27, 2018, a week after the official accessed one of the intelligence reports (Intelligence Report 1) for the second time, to ask if he was willing to talk to another reporter (identified as Journalist 2).
“Frese stated that he was ‘down’ to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 ‘progress,’” according to the DOJ, which added that the two also discussed a story Journalist 1 was working on based on the topic of Intelligence Report 1.
Several days after that discussion, the employee allegedly searched on a classified government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1.
Hours later, Frese spoke with both the journalists on the phone and approximately half an hour later, Journalist 1 published an article with classified national defense information (NDI) from Intelligence Report 1.
According to the indictment, Frese was captured Sept. 24 on court-authorized surveillance of his cell phone orally transmitting classified NDI to Journalist 2.
The DOJ said a federal grand jury has charged Frese with “two counts of willful transmission of national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.”
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.