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FBI agents have made an arrest in a key espionage case that would have had major national security implications for the U.S.
NSA staffer Jareh Sebastian Dalke of Colorado Springs, Colo., made his first federal court appearance on charges he attempted to sell government secrets to an undercover FBI agent believed to be a foreign operative. Dalke is facing espionage-related charges for allegedly plotting to transmit National Defense Information to a Russian agent.
The Department of Justice said in a press release that Dalke, 30, who “served as an Information Systems Security Designer” for less than a month earlier this year, utilized an encrypted email account to transmit a number of classified documents to someone he believed was working on behalf of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
“In actuality, that person was an undercover FBI agent. Dalke subsequently arranged to transfer additional classified information in his possession to the undercover FBI agent at a location in Denver, Colorado,” the DOJ said.
The NSA staffer was arrested last week when he went to meet up with his suspected Russian contact, allegedly to sell more information.
The DOJ press release further states:
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Dalke began communicating on or about July 29, 2022, via encrypted email with an individual he believed to be associated with a foreign government. Dalke told that individual that he had taken highly sensitive information relating to foreign targeting of U.S. systems and information on U.S. cyber operations, among other topics.
Dalke represented to the undercover FBI agent that he was still employed by the U.S. government but said he was on a temporary assignment at a field location. Dalke requested compensation via a specific type of cryptocurrency in exchange for the information he possessed and stated that he was in financial need.
“To prove he had access to sensitive information, Dalke transmitted excerpts of three classified documents to the undercover FBI agent. Each excerpt contained classification markings. One excerpt was classified at the Secret level, and two excerpts were classified at the Top Secret level. In return for this information, the FBI undercover agent provided the requested cryptocurrency to an address Dalke provided,” the press release continued.
“On or about Aug. 26, 2022, Dalke requested $85,000 in return for additional information in his possession. Dalke also told the FBI undercover agent that he would share additional information in the future, once he returned to the Washington, D.C., area. Although he was not employed by the NSA while communicating with the FBI, Dalke re-applied to the NSA in August 2022,” the DOJ said.
The former NSA staffer agreed to send more information via a secure connection established by the FBI at a public site in Denver. Dalke was arrested by the FBI at that location on Wednesday, the DOJ said.
According to court documents, Dalke allegedly told the undercover FBI agent that he “recently learned that my heritage ties back to your country, which is part of why I have come to you.”
He also allegedly stated that he wanted to sell the secrets because he “questioned our role in damage to the world in the past and by mixture of curiosity for secrets and a desire to cause change.”
If convicted, Dalke could face the death penalty, the DOJ said.
“Dalke is charged by criminal complaint alleging three violations of the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to transmit or attempt to transmit NDI to a representative of a foreign nation with intent or reason to believe that information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation,” the press release noted. “The Espionage Act carries a potential sentence of death or any term of years up to life.”