Feds allege former FBI analyst took documents on bin Laden and al Qaida, kept them for years
By DEREK HAWKINS | The Washington Post | Published: May 22, 2021
A former FBI agent with top-secret security clearance was indicted this week on charges that she illegally took numerous national security documents, including materials related to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, and kept them in her home over the course of more than a decade.
The grand jury indictment, filed in federal court in Missouri and unsealed Friday, charges Kendra Kingsbury with two counts of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Kingsbury, a 48-year-old from Dodge City, Kan., is accused of taking a range of materials between 2004 and 2017, many of which were marked secret because they discussed intelligence sources and methods, cyberthreats and other highly sensitive matters.
One batch of documents involved "internal correspondence" about a suspected bin Laden associate in Africa, according to the indictment. The files were from 2005 and 2006, when bin Laden, who masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was alive and on the run from U.S. forces.
Prosecutors didn't indicate a motive for Kingsbury's alleged offenses but said they zeroed in on her as part of their work to root out "insider threats" within the bureau.
"The breadth and depth of classified national security information retained by the defendant for more than a decade is simply astonishing," Alan E. Kohler Jr. assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
Kingsbury is scheduled to be arraigned on June 1. It wasn't immediately clear whether she had an attorney. A message left at a phone number listed for her wasn't immediately returned Saturday afternoon.
Criminal cases against intelligence officials accused of mishandling classified information are fairly common, but unlike Kingsbury's case they often include allegations that the materials were leaked. In one high-profile case last year, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official was sentenced to 30 months in prison for leaking classified information to reporters. In a similar case, a former FBI agent in Minneapolis was sentenced in 2018 for sharing classified information with the media.
Kingsbury is not accused of leaking any of the documents she allegedly stored at home. But prosecutors say she was aware she wasn't allowed to possess them.
The U.S. government has strict rules for who can view classified information and under what circumstances. The process is outlined in a series of executive orders, requiring officials to sign a nondisclosure agreement, receive a security clearance, and have a "need to know" the classified information before they see it.
Kingsbury knew the requirements, according to the indictment. She worked as an FBI intelligence analyst for more than 13 years, from June 2004 until Dec. 15, 2017, during which time she received training on the different types of classified information and how to handle them, according to the indictment.
She was also assigned to different FBI "squads" focused on issues such as illegal drug trafficking, violent crime, violent gangs and counterintelligence, according to the indictment. Prosecutors say she had access to sensitive materials at a secure area of the FBI's Kansas City Division and through secure government computer systems.
One count of the indictment accuses Kingsbury of taking documents marked secret that covered U.S. government efforts to collect intelligence on terrorist groups. It specifically mentions bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces in May 2011 during a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"The documents include information about al-Qaeda members on the African continent, including a suspected associate of Usama bin Laden," the indictment reads. "In addition, there are documents regarding the activities of emerging terrorists and their efforts to establish themselves in support of al-Qaeda in Africa."
Another count of the indictment charges Kingsbury with taking several "intelligence notes," a presentation, an assessment, an evaluation document, and other materials dated between 2008 and 2014. Investigators said some of the papers described specific open investigations across multiple field offices.
Others discussed "human source operations in national security investigations, intelligence gaps regarding hostile foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations, and the technical capabilities of the FBI against counterintelligence and counterterrorism targets," according to the indictment.
"Kingsbury was not authorized to remove and retain these sensitive government materials, nor did she have a need to know most, if not all, of the information contained in those materials." prosecutors said in a statement. "Kingsbury knew the unauthorized removal of classified materials and transportation and storage of those materials in unauthorized locations risked disclosure and transmission of those materials, and therefore could endanger the national security of the United States and the safety of its citizens."