ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former counterterrorism analyst who leaked classified information to two journalists, including one he was dating, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Thursday.
Henry Kyle Frese was employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2018 and 2019. Prosecutors said he shared secret details to a journalist he was dating while she authored articles about “certain foreign countries’ weapons systems.”
“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,” said John C. Demers, an assistant Attorney General for national security.
Frese was sentenced in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He had pleaded guilty in February to violating the Espionage Act and faced up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors had asked for a term of nine years, arguing Frese was motivated by “his own selfish interests.”
They had said he disclosed information classified as “secret” or “top secret” on 19 occasions. On one occasion, he told his girlfriend he would help one of her colleagues as well, saying in a private exchange on Twitter, ”(i)f helping her helps you, I’m down. I just want to see my bubs progress.”
Frese’s lawyers had asked for a much lighter sentence of one year. They argued Frese had no intention of harming his country. And they said he did not betray his country for money or ideology as might be found in a traditional espionage case.
Instead, they say he was trying to prop up a faltering romance with a journalist.
The Justice Department said Frese’s prosecution was one of six that have been filed in the past three years as part of a crackdown on leaks of classified information.
In recent years, leak prosecutions have resulted in sentences ranging from probation, given to former Gen. David Petraeus, to more than five years imposed on former National Security Agency analyst Reality Winner for leaking documents to The Intercept about Russian government efforts to hack into voting software ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Under the Espionage Act, which was used to prosecute Frese, prosecutors 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, has said his office is focused on leakers, not journalists.