ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — A former analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency who shared classified government secrets with his journalist girlfriend and another reporter was sentenced to just over two years in prison by a federal judge in Virginia on Thursday.
Henry Kyle Frese was indicted last October at the U.S. Eastern District of Virginia after he successfully transmitted top secret information about U.S. weapons defense systems to members of the press.
“Frese repeatedly passed classified information to a reporter, sometimes in response to her requests, all for personal gain,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “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.”
The reporters were later identified as CNBC journalist Amanda Macias, Frese’s live-in partner from January to November in 2018 and NBC reporter Courtney Kube.
On at least 30 separate occasions, Frese accessed protected government databases and conducted searches to see what information he may turn up that would be of value to Macias or Kube, both of whom worked on national security beats.
According to prosecutors, the material Frese drummed up was used in at least eight of Macias’s stories including one about China’s installation of a surface-to-air missile system off the Chinese mainland. Phone and text message records confirmed too that after speaking with Macias by phone on one occasion, details he revealed appeared in one of Macias’s stories just a half hour later.
Several of Frese’s searches were outside the scope of his responsibilities at the Defense Intelligence Agency, prosecutors noted in a filing ahead of sentencing last week. And particularly disturbing to federal prosecutors were records that showed Frese would sometimes leave his post inside a sensitive compartmented facility during work hours to call Macias or Kube and relay details on the spot.
A foreign consultant who worked on counterterrorism issues also received information from Frese on at least two occassions, according to documents. That individual was never identified.
Though he faced up to 10 years in prison for sharing the secrets, the 30-month sentence handed down Thursday was the result of what attorneys said was a willingness by Frese to refrain from giving away even more information he knew would be devastating to national security.
Frese’s attorney Stuart Sears, partner of of the Washington firm Schertler, Onorado, Mead and Sears, noted in a response to prosecutors ahead of sentencing that when Frese passed the information to Macias, referred to in court documents as “Journalist 1,” the former analyst was at a low point in his romantic life and in a “depressive state.”
“The relationship quickly became a priority and Mr. Frese focused a lot of time and energy in to making it work. At the same time, Journalist 1’s career was stalling and she would ask Mr. Frese to share information that she could use to either confirm other information she had received or to give her a lead on potential new stories,” Sears wrote on June 11. “At first those requests were rebuffed, but as the requests mounted and as the relationship deteriorated over time, he eventually relented.”
Because Frese did not seek to turn a profit on sharing the information and because he was not outrightly conducting espionage to betray America, Sears called for a reduced sentence.
Prosecutors originally sought nine years, or 108 months, for Frese, saying they considered his offenses far graver than those made in 2017 by former National Security Administration contractor Reality Winner when she leaked top secret records about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Winner was sentenced to five years in prison.
Frese’s offenses were also more severe than that of Terry Albury, they argued, a longtime FBI employee indicted under the Espionage Act in 2018. Albury, contending he was a whistleblower, shared documents with The Intercept to show what he said was the federal government’s campaign of discrimination against people of Middle Eastern descent.
“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,” Timothy R. Slater, assistant drector in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement Thursday.
“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.”