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Ex-intelligence official pleads guilty to leaking classified defense info to journos, faces up to 10 years

(MSNBC screenshot/Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/CNBC screenshot)

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One is better than none, though three would be even better.

The Department of Justice has finally claimed a scalp in its ongoing war against embedded so-called “deep state” operatives within the government who have no loyalty to either President Donald Trump or the United States of America.

On Thursday the department announced that a former Defense Intelligence Agency employee has bent the knee and pleaded guilty “to his disclosure of classified national defense information (NDI) to two journalists in 2018 and 2019.”

During 31-year-old Henry Kyle Frese’s tenure as a counterterrorism analyst from February 2018 to October 2019, he exploited various top-level security clearances he held at the time to purposefully leak classified information to two journalists, one of whom with he lived, according to the DOJ.

“[I]n the spring and summer of 2018, News Outlet 1 published eight articles, all authored by the same journalist (Journalist 1) that contained classified NDI that related to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapons systems,” the department notes.

“The media articles, and the intelligence reporting from which they were derived, both contained information that is classified up to the TS//SCI level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security. The intelligence reporting was marked as such.”

Journalist 1 is believed to be Amanda Macias of CNBC. She was temporarily suspended upon Frese’s arrest last October, though as of February she still remains employed with the network.

“In or about April of 2018, Journalist 1 introduced Frese to a second journalist (Journalist 2),” the DOJ’s announcement continues. “Subsequently, Frese began texting and speaking with Journalist 2 by telephone.”

“Between mid-2018 and late September 2019, Frese orally transmitted NDI classified at the Top Secret level to Journalist 1 on 12 separate occasions, and orally transmitted NDI classified at the Secret level to Journalist 1 on at least four occasions.”

Journalist 2 is believed to be Courtney Kube of NBC.

The DOJ’s initial investigation concluded with Frese’s arrest last October. At the time he faced up to 20 years in prison on two counts of willful transmission of national defense information. Thanks to his plea deal, he’s down to one count and 10 years come June 18, the day he’s slated to be sentenced for his crimes.

What remains unknown is what he traded for such a “sweet deal.” Uncorroborated reports suggest that he traded damaging information about Macias and Kube, both of who went radio silent on Twitter following the DOJ’s announcement Thursday.

Court documents reportedly show that Frese admitted to having exchanged 630 phone calls and 57 text messages with Macias, and 34 calls and 151 text messages with Kube.

“Neither Journalist 1 nor Journalist 2 was authorized to receive classified NDI, and at all times during his communications with Journalist 1 and 2, the defendant knew that he was not authorized to transmit classified NDI to either Journalist 1 or Journalist 2,” a so-called “Statement of Facts” from the case reads.

It’s not clear what repercussions Macias and Kube could face for their own involvement in Frese’s crimes, as the DOJ’s announcement focuses solely on him.

“Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with Top Secret information related to the national defense of our country,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

“Frese violated that trust, the oath he swore to uphold, and engaged in felonious conduct at the expense of our country. This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those similarly entrusted with National Defense Information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.”

But what about accomplices?

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers added.

“He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk. The government takes these breaches seriously and will use all the resources at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute those who jeopardize the safety of this country and its citizens.”

But again, what about accomplices?

Questions like these matter because members of the media have played an integral role in hurting the Trump administration domestically and abroad via the incessant leaks and insider information they keep publishing.

For instance, The New York Times committed what the president described as “virtual act of treason” last summer by publishing secrets about the Pentagon’s cyber operations against Russia:

Vivek Saxena

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