ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former counterterrorism analyst pleaded guilty Thursday to leaking classified information to two journalists, including one he was dating.
Henry Kyle Frese, 31, of Philadelphia, held a top-secret clearance when he worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to illegally transmitting national defense information.
Prosecutors say Frese leaked classified details about foreign nations’ weapon systems in 2018 and 2019.
The court papers do not explicitly identify the journalists who received the information, but details in the papers make it clear that the recipients were Amanda Macias of CNBC and Courtney Kube of NBC News.
Macias wrote multiple articles in 2018 about China’s missile systems.
The Justice Department said Frese’s prosecution is one of six that have been filed in the last three years as part of a crackdown on leaks of classified information.
Frese declined comment after Thursday’s hearing. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in June.
Court documents indicate that between March 2018 and October 2019, when Frese was arrested at his office, he participated in at least 630 phone calls with Macias and 34 calls with Kube.
Frese admitted as part of the plea agreement that he agreed to help Kube and provide her with classified information because he believed it would help Macias progress professionally.
A statement of facts filed Thursday with Frese’s plea agreement indicates he also transmitted classified information to an employee of an overseas counterterrorism consulting group.
Court documents indicate that several factors allowed investigators to develop Frese as a suspect in their leak investigation. To begin with, Frese and Macias lived together at the same address for much of 2018. In addition, only 26 people had accessed all five of the intelligence reports that were referenced in the articles, according to audit logs. Frese was one of them.
Frese also admitted that he searched multiple times for classified information that was outside his areas of responsibility based on requests from Macias and Kube.
Under the Espionage Act, which was used to prosecute Frese, prosecutors also can potentially charge the recipients of the leak as well as the person who transmits it. But U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger, whose office prosecuted the case, said in October when Frese was arrested that authorities are “focused on the leaker, not the journalist.”