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Former DIA analyst sentenced for leaking classified information to journalists

Department of Justice. (Scott "Skippy"/Flickr)
June 18, 2020

A former employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for leaking classified information to two journalists in 2018 and 2019.

“Frese repeatedly passed classified information to a reporter, sometimes in response to her requests, all for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “When this information was published, it was shared with all of our nation’s adversaries, creating a risk of exceptionally grave harm to the security of this country.  His conviction and sentence demonstrate the Department’s commitment to the investigation and prosecution of such betrayals by clearance holders as part of our mandate to protect our citizens and defend the national security of the United States.”

“The American people expect those entrusted with our nation’s most sensitive secrets to keep those secrets safe. Mr. Frese did just the opposite,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.  “The FBI is committed to protecting the national security interests of the United States and will vigorously pursue investigations into current and former clearance holders who leak classified information.”

“When our nation’s secrets are published, in print or online, those secrets are made available to all of our adversaries,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Frese’s choice to betray his oath to his country had real consequences and caused actual harm to the safety of this country and its citizens.”

“When Mr. Frese chose to provide classified information to members of the media, he violated his oath to serve the United States as a trusted government employee,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “Put in the hands of our adversaries, this information causes damage and harm to our country.  This investigation and today’s sentencing serve as a reminder that unauthorized disclosures of classified information is a crime, and will not be tolerated.”

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According to court documents, Henry Kyle Frese, 31, of Alexandria, was employed by DIA as a counterterrorism analyst from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance.  United States government agencies have confirmed that in the spring and summer of 2018, News Outlet 1 published eight articles, all authored by the same journalist (Journalist 1) that contained classified NDI that related to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapons systems.  These articles contained classified intelligence from five intelligence reports (the Compromised Intelligence Reports) made available to appropriately cleared recipients in the first half of 2018.  The topic of all of these initial five Compromised Intelligence Reports – foreign countries’ weapons systems – was outside the scope of Frese’s job duties as an analyst covering CT topics.  The media articles, and the intelligence reporting from which they were derived, both contained information that is classified up to the TS//SCI level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security.  The intelligence reporting was marked as such.

According to court documents, Frese and Journalist 1 lived together at the same residential address from January 2018 to November 2018.  Throughout 2018 and 2019, Frese and Journalist 1 “followed” each other on Twitter, and on at least two occasions Frese re-Tweeted Journalist 1’s tweets announcing the publications of articles containing NDI classified at the Top Secret level.

In or about April of 2018, Journalist 1 introduced Frese to a second journalist (Journalist 2).  Subsequently, Frese began texting and speaking with Journalist 2 by telephone.  Between mid-2018 and late September 2019, Frese orally transmitted NDI classified at the Top Secret level to Journalist 1 on 12 separate occasions, and orally transmitted NDI classified at the Secret level to Journalist 1 on at least four occasions.  Frese knew the information was classified at the Secret and Top Secret levels because the intelligence products from which he had learned the classified information had visible classification markings as to the classification level of the information, and the intelligence products accessed by Frese were stored on secure, classified government information systems.

In relation to one of the 12 times Frese orally transmitted Top Secret NDI to Journalist 1, in or about mid-April to early May 2018, Frese accessed an intelligence report unrelated to his job duties on multiple occasions, which contained NDI classified at the Top Secret//SCI level (Intelligence Report l).  A week after Frese accessed Intelligence Report 1 for the second time, Frese received an April 27, 2018 Twitter Direct Message (DM) from Journalist 1 asking whether Frese would be willing to speak with Journalist 2.  Frese stated that he was “down” to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 “progress.” During the same April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Journalist 1 indicated that a certain United States military official told Journalist 2 that the official was not aware of the subject matter discussed in Intelligence Report 1.  Frese characterized the official’s denial as “weird” and commented on the source of information contained within Intelligence Report 1.

Several days after the April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Frese searched on a classified United States government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1.  A few hours after searching for terms related to the topic of Intelligence Report l, Frese spoke by telephone with Journalist 1, and several hours later he spoke by telephone with Journalist 2.  Immediately after the call with Journalist 2, Journalist 1 called Frese. During at least one of the calls with Journalist 1 and Journalist 2, Frese orally passed Top Secret NDI derived from Intelligence Report 1.  Approximately 30 minutes after Frese spoke with the two journalists, Journalist 1 published an article (Article 1) which contained Top Secret NDI, orally communicated by Frese and derived from Intelligence Report 1 classified at the Top Secret//SCI level.

On at least 30 separate occasions in 2018, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems for information regarding the classified topics he discussed with Journalists 1 and 2.  On multiple occasions in 2018 and 2019, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems because of specific requests for information from Journalists 1 and 2.

Additionally, between early 2018 and October 2019, Frese communicated with an employee of an overseas CT consulting group (Consultant 1) via social media.  On at least two occasions, Frese transmitted classified NDI related to CT topics to Consultant 1, using a social media site’s direct messaging feature.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Danya E. Atiyeh, Neil Hammerstrom and Trial Attorney Jennifer Gellie for the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division prosecuted the case.

This press release was originally published by the U.S. Department of Justice.