Defense analyst arrested for leaking classified information

The Justice Department says Henry Kyle Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Virginia, leaked government secrets involving a foreign country's weapons system in 2018 and 2019.

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By Pete Williams, Tom Winter and Daniella Silva

An employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency in northern Virginia was arrested Wednesday and charged with leaking top secret information to two journalists, one of whom he was romantically involved with, federal prosecutors disclosed.

The Justice Department says Henry Kyle Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Virginia, leaked government secrets involving a foreign country's weapons system in 2018 and 2019.

"Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain," John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a press release. He called it "a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country.

The journalists were not named in court documents, which said the two worked for two different news organizations owned by the same company. Prosecutors said Frese and one of the reporters had the same home address for a year. "It appears that they were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time," according to a search warrant application.

Frese was arrested without incident Wednesday morning when he reported for work, officials said. The FBI said portions of his phone calls and text messages revealed him passing classified information to a reporter, Demers said.

Court documents said one of the reporters wrote eight stories in mid-2018 "that contain classified national defense information that relates to the capabilities of certain foreign countries' weapons systems."

U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that Frese allegedly engaged in "dastardly and felonious conduct at the expense of our country."

Terwilliger added it seemed "pretty clear to me that the motives were anything but altruistic, they were self-centered and they were selfish."

"The modus operandi in this case seems pretty straight forward. The journalist desired certain information for use in her articles," he said. "The defendant would access classified materials which he had access to only because of his security clearance and employment with the United States government.

Terwilliger said the first journalist published eight articles containing classified information from five compromised intelligence reports.

According to the indictment, a week after Frese first allegedly accessed one of the intelligence reports, one of the journalists asked him via a direct message on Twitter about whether he would speak with a second journalist.

Frese said he was "'down' to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 'progress.'"

The first journalist later published an article containing information from the intelligence report, according to the indictment.

The indictment said that on Sept. 24 of this year, the FBI intercepted a phone call between Frese and the second journalist where he allegedly leaked national defense information from additional intelligence reports.

NBC News was unable to reach Frese for comment.