Intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified information is released on bond
By RACHEL WEINER | The Washington Post | Published: October 11, 2019
A Defense Intelligence Agency employee accused of sharing classified information with two reporters was released on bond in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court Friday.
Henry Frese, who had a high-level security clearance, pleaded not guilty to two counts of willful transmission of national defense information. A status hearing in his case is set for Nov. 2.
"The overwhelming majority of discovery in this case is classified," Assistant U.S. Attorney Danya Atiyeh told U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema.
Frese was arrested Wednesday morning as he arrived for work at DIA offices in Reston, Virginia, the FBI said. Prosecutors said the information disclosed "could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security," but did not allege any actual harm.
The indictment does not name the reporters with whom Frese is alleged to have shared classified information, but the circumstances described in court papers appear to match Amanda Macias of CNBC and Courtney Kube of MSNBC. A person familiar with the case confirmed that they are the journalists linked to the case.
Frese is barred from contacting any potential witnesses or co-defendants in the case. The government has declined to say whether they intend to prosecute the two reporters.
His lead attorney, Sean Buckley, has prosecuted terrorism cases in the Southern District of New York.
According to the court records, the DIA began investigating after the publication in the spring of 2018 of eight stories regarding foreign countries' weapons systems. During that period, articles about Chinese and Russian weapon defense systems were published under Macias's byline.
Frese was found to have used his security clearance to gain access to five classified intelligence reports referenced in the articles, even though the files were outside his job duties as a counterterrorism analyst, according to prosecutors.
According to the court documents, FBI agents concluded after searches of public records and social media that Frese and one of the reporters, whom the person familiar with the case identified as Macias, lived together from August 2017 to August 2018 and were in a romantic relationship for at least some of that period.
They obtained a wiretap for Frese's phone, a step rarely taken in leak investigations, and subpoenaed Twitter records, court papers say.
Authorities alleged that one journalist, who has been identified as Macias, asked Frese if he would help a second reporter. He agreed, and in a call last month allegedly shared classified information with a reporter who has been identified as Kube.
The journalists and their organizations have not publicly commented on the case.