Intel Analyst Allegedly Shared Top Secret Info with Reporters, Tweeted Story Containing His Own Leak

An employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DNI) has been arrested for allegedly leaking top secret information about a “certain foreign country’s” weapons capabilities to two separate journalists–including one journalist with whom he was romantically involved.

According to an unsealed indictment released on Wednesday, 30-year-old Henry K. Frese was charged by a grand jury operating out of the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) with two counts of willful transmission of National Defense Information (DNI).

The government alleges that sometime between April and May of 2018, “Frese accessed an intelligence report unrelated to his job duties on multiple occasions, which contained” top secret information “related to a certain foreign country’s weapons systems.”

A statement from the Department of Justice said that Frese “was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for person gain.”

The eight-page filing details Frese’s alleged contact with two unidentified journalists and their respective news outlets:

A week after Frese accessed Intelligence Report 1 for the second time, Frese received an April 27, 2018 Twitter Direct Message (“DM”) from a journalist (“Journalist 1”) with a certain news outlet (“News Outlet 1”). Journalist 1 asked whether Frese would be willing to speak with a second journalist (“Journalist 2”), who worked with a second news outlet (“News Outlet 2”). Frese stated that he was “down” to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 “progress.”

The government declined to identify the journalists in question, but did say that Journalist 1 is a woman and that Frese shared an apartment with her in Virginia between August 2017 and August 2018.

During that Twitter DM exchange, the journalist said a U.S. military official had denied the “stated subject matter of a story” they were working on. Frese allegedly characterized that official’s denial as “weird” and “commented on the source of information contained” in the intelligence report. Then, a few days later, Frese allegedly “searched on a classified United States government computer system for terms related to the topics contained” in that intelligence report.

“A few hours after searching for terms related to the topic” of the first intelligence report, Frese allegedly called his girlfriend and spoke with her for seven minutes. He later spoke with the second journalist on the phone “for over half an hour,” according to the EDVA.

Later that day, the first journalist allegedly published an article containing top secret information she obtained from Frese–who then allegedly retweeted that article via his own Twitter account.

Frese was eventually wiretapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who claim to have intercepted the following conversation between the alleged leaker and the second journalist:

Journalist 2: What’s going on at work?
Frese: Uh, well, it’s nothing to do with, like, what I cover, per usual but, umm, it’s, so it’s about [topic of Intelligence Reports 2 and 3] . . . And I don’t know if anyone’s really commented on this but I saw a report, it’s a few days old at this point, um, that basically [NDI from Intelligence Reports 2 and 3 that was classified at the SECRET level].

“The News Outlets to which Frese transmitted the intelligence reporting were not entitled to receive or possess it,” the document goes on to spell out. “Frese knew that the News Outlets were not entitled to receive or possess the intelligence reporting.”

The charging document paints a picture of a federal employee who should have known better than to leak classified information.

Frese “received training regarding classified information, including the definitions of classified information, the levels of classification, and [Sensitive Compartmented Information], as well as the proper handling, marking, transportation, and storage of classified materials,” according to the unsealed filing.

Both charges carry a statutory maximum 20 years in prison–though Frese would almost certainly receive nothing akin to the maximum sentence.

[image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]

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