A counterterrorism analyst was arrested Wednesday after being indicted on two counts of leaking classified national defense information to two NBC-affiliated journalists, including one whom he had a romantic relationship with.
Henry Kyle Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Virginia, faces two counts of willful transmission of national defense material. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each count.
Prosecutors say he shared top-secret defense reports, including details on China’s weapons systems, in 2018 and 2019. An article on China’s defenses was one of at least eight articles written by the journalists based on intelligence reports Mr. Frese leaked to them, according to court documents.
The journalists are not identified in the indictment, but public tweets cited in court filings correspond with stories written by Amanda Macias, a CNBC reporter, and Courtney Kube, a reporter for NBC. Neither reporter nor NBC News responded to requests for comment. Ms. Kube covers national security and the military and Ms. Macias covers the Pentagon.
Neither has been charged with a crime. Speaking with reporters Wednesday, U.S. Attorney for Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger declined to say if he would bring charges against the journalists.
Ms. Macias is believed to have had a romantic relationship with Mr. Frese because they lived together and appear in each other’s social media posts, prosecutors said.
Between mid-April and early May 2018, Mr. Frese took the classified intelligence reports, some of which were unrelated to his job duties and transmitted them to his girlfriend using his cellphone, prosecutors said.
The journalist then asked her paramour if he could help out the other reporter. According to court documents, Mr. Frese said he was “down” with helping out her colleague because it would help her “progress.” She also published an article based on Mr. Frese’s leaks.
“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.
The Justice Department did not elaborate.
Mr. Frese held a top-secret clearance at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he started as a contractor in January 2017 before becoming a full-time employee. He was arrested Wednesday morning when he arrived at work.
John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Mr. Frese was caught “red-handed” last month when FBI surveillance caught him transmitting national defense material to the second reporter through his cellphone.
“Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain,” Mr. Demers said.
“Frese betrayed the trust placed in him by the American people — a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country.”