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A counterterrorism analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested Wednesday on federal charges that he leaked top secret and other classified information — including details of a foreign country's weapons systems — to two reporters in 2018 and this year.
The worker, Henry Kyle Frese, 30, held top-secret clearance at the DIA, where he began as a contractor in January 2017, and eventually became a full-time employee.
One of the journalists who allegedly received secret information from Frese had apparently been involved in a romantic relationship with him, authorities said.
That reporter ended up writing at least eight articles based on at least five compromised intelligence reports leaked by Frese, according to a criminal indictment. Frese retweeted a link to the first article that reporter wrote based on information he had allegedly leaked to her, the indictment says.
"Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain," said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.
An indictment alleges that Frese accessed classified intelligence reports, some which were not connected to his job duties, in spring 2018 and provided top-secret information about another country's weapons systems to a journalist who lived at the same Alexandria, Virginia, residential address as Frese.
The Justice Department said that "based on reviews" of the public social media pages of Frese and that reporter, "it appears that they were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time" in which Frese allegedly leaked the information to her.
"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 Justice Department said in a press release announcing Frese's indictment in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
A week after Frese allegedly accessed one of the intelligence reports, the first journalist sent Frese a direct message on Twitter asking whether he would speak with another journalist, according to the department.
"Frese stated that he was 'down' to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 'progress.'"
The identities of the reporters and their employers were not disclosed by authorities.
The indictment against Frese says that on Sept. 24, 2019, surveillance of Frese caught him on a cellphone call transmitting national defense information to the second reporter.
Those disclosures allegedly contained information classified as secret, "meaning that the unauthorized disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to cause serious harm to the national security of the United States," the department said.
Frese faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of each of the two counts of willful transmission of national defense information with which he was charged.
"Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with TOP SECRET information related to the national defense of our country," said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
"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," Terwilliger said.
"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."