Amid a swirling fight over an impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats following the revelations provided by a government whistleblower, the Trump administration announced its intention to continue its war on leakers on Wednesday after a counterterrorism analyst was arrested on federal charges for allegedly sharing classified information with two journalists in 2018 and 2019.
Accused is Henry Kyle Frese, a 30-year -old U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency employee, who may have been romantically involved with one of the journalists. According to the indictment, the FBI claimed authority under Title III to intercept Frese's text messages and phone calls.
ABC affiliate WJLA reported:
Hours after Frese searched a classified government computer system, he talked with the two journalists. About a half hour after the conversation, the first journalist published an article with top secret national defense information in a news outlet, according to the indictment.
In September 2019, Frese talked with the second journalist on his cell phone and provided secret classified national defense information. The conversation was monitored by court-authorized surveillance of his cell phone, according to the indictment.
"Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain," said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. "Frese betrayed the trust placed in him by the American people—a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country. This is one of six unauthorized disclosure cases the Department has charged in just over two years, and we will continue in our efforts to punish and deter this behavior."
"Our investigators and prosecutors nationwide will continue to devote themselves to media leak cases in order to protect our nation from the threat posed by the rare intelligence community official who breaks his or her oath," added Dmers.
According to journalist Marcy Wheeler, the serious matter appears to be not the leaks themselves but "the warning [Demers'] press conference was meant to send to journalists."
"When asked if DOJ was considering prosecuting the two journalists," Wheeler wrote, "the speakers on the press conference deferred, as they did about any ongoing investigation. That is, they may well be intending to do so."
Also noteworthy, according to Wheeler, is the FBI's use of "a Title III wiretap to intercept Freese's calls to the journalists, something that would be more proportional to the mob, not journalists."
Human rights lawyer and whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, on Twitter, said that Frese's indictment was more evidence of the Trump administration's "chilling message" to the intelligence community.