ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A Defense Intelligence Agency analyst was charged Wednesday with providing journalists top secret and classified national defense information, including secrets related to an unnamed foreign country’s weapons systems.
Henry Kyle Frese, 30, was arrested as he arrived at work Wednesday morning at a Defense Intelligence Agency facility in Virginia.
According to the 8-page indictment in Virginia’s Eastern District, the counter-terrorism analyst sometime in mid-April 2018 accessed an intelligence report “unrelated to his job duties” that contained the sensitive information about the weapons systems of an unnamed foreign country. He allegedly accessed it again in late April and then messaged a reporter identified only as “Journalist 1.”
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers told reporters on a call Wednesday that, while Frese is considered innocent until proven guilty, what prosecutors found was a defendant caught “red-handed” transmitting top-secret information.
U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger noted that this happened “first to a journalist he had a relationship with and then to the journalist’s colleague at a different news outlet.”
Terwilliger declined to say whether the news outlets or journalists involved were specifically based here or abroad.
Assistant Attorney General Demers would not comment on whether the journalists involved would soon face charges of their own.
“The journalist wanted certain information for use in her article,” Terwilliger said. “The defendant accessed classified materials, which were outside his area of responsibility then unlawfully transmitted them to the journalist to include in at least eight of her articles.”
The journalist’s reports allegedly contained classified information from a minimum of five now-compromised intelligence reports. All of the information in the news stories was related to the information Frese shared with the journalists, prosecutors allege.
“The defendant passed national defense secrets to curry favor with the second journalist in order to help advance the career of the first,” Terwilliger said.
Breaking news reports have identified CNBC’s Amanda Macias as Journalist 1 and NBC's Courtney Kube as Journalist 2, based on the descriptions in the affidavit and publicly available records.
FBI Special Agent Donny Kim signed a 23-page affidavit accompanying the indictment that says Frese and Journalist 1 were romantically linked for a time. This was evident through their social media pages, Kim said, adding that a public records search showed they shared the same residence from August 2017 through last year.
In late August, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema authorized the FBI to intercept Frese’s wire and electronic communications, including his correspondence on Twitter.
Agents flagged hundreds of calls and messages between Frese and the reporter spanning from March 2018 until this Tuesday. According to Kim’s affidavit, however, the FBI now wants broader access to Frese’s phone. In particular, the agent seeks records that predate Brinkema’s authorization.
The affidavit and indictment are sparse on details — not unusual given the sensitive nature of the charges — but the affidavit does offer some insight to the connection between Journalist 1 and Journalist 2. Though they worked for different companies, both of their employers are owned by the same parent company and are part of the same group of publicly affiliated news outlets, Kim wrote.
The journalists also report on similar topics — national security — and were assigned to cover the same location from mid-2018 into this year.
Journalist 2 is described as “more senior” and has been on the same national-security beat for over a decade. The two reporters first co-authored an article in early July that contained some of the classified national defense intelligence information.