An employee with the Defense Intelligence Agency has been arrested on charges that he leaked classified national defense information (NDI) to two journalists in 2018 and 2019.
According to an announcement from the Justice Department, Henry Kyle Frese, 30, of Alexandria, is a DIA employee and holds a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information U.S. government security clearance.
According to court documents, between mid-April and early May 2018, Frese allegedly accessed classified intelligence reports, some of which were unrelated to his job duties, and provided TOP SECRET information regarding a foreign country’s weapons systems to a journalist (Journalist 1).
Court documents show that Frese and Journalist 1 had the same residential address from August 2017 through August 2018 and, based on reviews of Frese’s and Journalist 1’s public social media pages, it appears that they were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time. The unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States.
According to the indictment, a week after Frese accessed one of the intelligence reports (Intelligence Report 1) for the second time, Journalist 1 wrote to Frese on April 27, 2018, and asked whether he would be willing to speak with another journalist (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.”
As alleged, in that same communication, Frese and Journalist 1 also discussed a story that Journalist 1 was working on, the subject matter of which was the topic of Intelligence Report 1.
Several days after that communication, Frese searched on a classified United States government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1. According to the indictment, in the hours after searching for terms related to the topic of Intelligence Report 1, Frese spoke by telephone with both Journalist 1 (twice) and Journalist 2, and within approximately a half hour after Frese’s conversations with the two journalists, Journalist 1 published an article (Article 1) through News Outlet 1, which contained NDI from Intelligence Report 1 classified at the TOP SECRET//SCI level.
In addition, as alleged in the indictment, on Sept. 24, 2019, Frese was captured on court-authorized surveillance of his cell phone orally transmitting classified NDI to Journalist 2. These disclosures contained NDI classified at the SECRET level, meaning that the unauthorized disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to cause serious harm to the national security of the United States.
On Tuesday, October 8, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Frese with two counts of willful transmission of national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count.
Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime, however, a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
“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. 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.”