An official of the US Defence Intelligence Agency has been arrested and charged with leaking classified information to two journalists in 2018 and 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
Henry Kyle Frese, 30, who had Top Secret security clearance, allegedly accessed classified intelligence documents between mid-April and early May 2018, some of which were unrelated to his job duties, Efe news quoted a DOJ statement as saying following the former's arrest on Wednesday.
"The unauthorized disclosure of top secret information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the US," the statement added.
Citing court documents, the Department said Frese then provided this information regarding a foreign country's weapons systems to one of the two reporters, identified as Journalist 1.
According to the court documents, both the accused and Journalist 1 had the same residential address between August 2017 and August 2018 and were apparently romantically involved during some or all of that time period based on the DOJ's review of their social media pages.
The indictment has alleged that Journalist 1 wrote to Frese on April 27, 2018, a week after the official accessed one of the intelligence reports (Intelligence Report 1) for the second time, to ask if he was willing to talk to the second reporter, identified as Journalist 2.
"Frese stated that he was 'down' to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 'progress'," according to the DOJ, which added that the two also discussed a story Journalist 1 was working on based on the topic of Intelligence Report 1.
Several days after that discussion, the Frese allegedly searched on a classified government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1.
Hours later, he spoke with both the reporters on the phone and approximately half an hour later, Journalist 1 published an article with classified National Defence Information (NDI) from Intelligence Report 1.
According to the indictment, Frese was captured September 24 on court-authorized surveillance of his cell phone orally transmitting classified NDI to Journalist 2.
The DOJ said a federal grand jury has charged Frese with "two counts of wilful transmission of NDI to persons not entitled to receive it".
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.