A U.S. intelligence employee has been arrested and charged with funneling classified material to two journalists in the latest example of the Justice Department’s wide-ranging leak hunts.
Kyle Frese, 30, who worked as a counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, appeared to be in a romantic relationship with one of the journalists, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
She asked him to help the second, more senior journalist—a national security correspondent who worked for a separate but affiliated news outlet—and he agreed, saying he wanted to help the first “progress,” prosecutors alleged.
Zach Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney in Virginia whose office charged Frese, called the leaks “dastardly and felonious.”
Frese, who had a security clearance that allowed him access to top secret/special compartmented information, allegedly leaked classified intelligence reports that included information about a foreign country’s weapons system.
The journalist with whom Frese allegedly had a relationship with published at least eight articles with classified information from five intelligence reports.
Court papers indicate that investigators tracked social media and correlated phone calls between the journalists and Frese with the dates that articles were published to make their case. Court-ordered surveillance caught Frese sharing classified information with one of the two journalists in a phone call.
In a conference call about Frese’s indictment, Assistant Attorney General John Demers cited former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ August 2017 press conference about a leak crackdown and said the department has charged six people with leaks in just over two years.
He said the probes are challenging, and that the First Amendment concerns make them “doubly challenging,” but added that those challenges had not kept the department from ferreting out leakers.
Terwilliger would not comment on whether DOJ plans to charge the journalists involved, and they were not identified.
“Right now we're focused on the leaker not the journalist,” he said. Asked whether DOJ was trying to send a message to reporters, he added, “No. The Justice Department is trying to send a message to leakers.”
Frese was arrested Wednesday morning when he arrived at the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to DOJ.