A counterterrorism analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency who appears to have a Canadian background was arrested on Wednesday over charges he leaked classified materials about a foreign country's weapons system to two journalists in 2018 and 2019, the U.S. Justice Department said in federal court filings on Wednesday.
While the indictment itself does not identify the journalists or the outlet involved, multiple reporters have cited information from the court records and social media posts as evidence that one of them had to be Amanda Macias, national security correspondent for CNBC, with whom Frese is believed to have been involved romantically.
Between April and May 2018, Frese allegedly accessed classified intelligence reports - some of which were unrelated to his job duties - and leaked secret information regarding a foreign country's weapons system to a reporter, according to court documents. The indictment, issued by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, charges him with two counts of willful transmission of national defense information, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
"Frese betrayed the trust placed in him by the American people - a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's national security division. After that, he allegedly spoke to the two journalists, and one of them published an article containing "top secret" classified information from the report he accessed.
According to court documents, Frese accessed an intelligence report unrelated to his job duties on multiple occasions in mid-April to early May previous year. It said Frese re-tweeted a link to one of the articles that used the information he allegedly had provided.
The reporter, believed to be Macias, published eight articles containing classified defense information between May and July of previous year, prosecutors said.
The indictment also accused Frese of speaking about classified national defense information to the second reporter via his cellphone on September 24, 2019. He said Frese's behavior was "not selfless or heroic, it is criminal".
After one of the journalists messaged Mr Frese on Twitter, he agreed to speak to her and the second reporter, saying he was "down" to help if it helped the first journalist "progress".
In the spring of 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges Journalist 1 called Frese on his cellphone. She was sentenced to five years in August 2018. The journalists and their media outlets did not respond to requests for comment.
The first case to emerge during the Trump administration's crackdown on leaking involved Reality Winner, a former intelligence analyst who divulged a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Intercept news website.