WASHINGTON — A former Pentagon counterterrorism analyst was sentenced by a federal judge on Thursday to more than two years in prison for sharing national security secrets with a pair of reporters and a consultant.
The former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Henry Kyle Frese, 32, had pleaded guilty this year in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to willful transmission of top-secret national defense information, namely about foreign countries’ weapons systems. He had faced up to 10 years in prison.
“Frese repeatedly passed classified information to a reporter, sometimes in response to her requests, all for personal gain,” John C. Demers, the top national security official at the Justice Department, said in a statement.
The arrest of Mr. Frese was part of the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on illegal leaks of classified information, a push that dates to the second half of the George W. Bush administration and intensified under former President Barack Obama.
Mr. Frese admitted to sharing information from April 2018 to September 2019 with the two journalists, identified as Journalist 1 and Journalist 2 in court documents.
According to court documents and social media posts, Journalist 1 was Amanda Macias, a national security reporter at CNBC, who was Mr. Frese’s girlfriend and shared a home with him.
Ms. Macias published eight articles that contained classified information related to those weapons systems, prosecutors said. The articles contained sensitive material taken from classified intelligence reports, they said.
In May 2018, Ms. Macias reported that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile system in the South China Sea. Mr. Frese shared a link to the article that she had posted on Twitter.
In April 2018, prosecutors said, Ms. Macias introduced Mr. Frese to Journalist 2, who has been identified as Courtney Kube, a reporter for NBC News covering the Pentagon. Mr. Frese said that he was “down” to help Ms. Kube if it helped Ms. Macias’s career “progress.”
Prosecutors said that at least 30 times in 2018, Mr. Frese searched classified government systems for information he discussed with the reporters.
And from early 2018 to October 2019, Mr. Frese communicated with an employee of an overseas consulting group using social media, according to court papers. On at least two occasions, prosecutors said, Mr. Frese transmitted classified information to the consultant, who was not named.
As part of its investigation, the F.B.I. wiretapped Mr. Frese’s cellphone and intercepted some of his text messages and phone calls. The government also obtained data from Twitter, where he communicated with one of the reporters.
Mr. Frese’s lawyers had argued in a court filing shortly before he was sentenced that he did not deserve more than 12 months and one day, noting that his disclosures included no sources or methods of intelligence-gathering, which are among the government’s most closely held secrets.
They also cited instances where Mr. Frese asked Ms. Macias to hold off on publishing information from other sources because he thought it would compromise national security.
The lawyers said Mr. Frese met Ms. Macias after a traumatic breakup with a long-term girlfriend. His lawyers said Ms. Macias’s “career was stalling, and she would ask Mr. Frese to share information.” They said he was a “dedicated patriot” who was “particularly susceptible to pressure and influence.”
“He did so for the purpose of helping her advance her career and with the hope of improving their relationship,” they wrote.
“Mr. Frese engaged in his regrettable behavior at a time of clouded judgment and in a misguided effort to salvage a relationship that was not worth saving,” his lawyers wrote in a court document filed on Wednesday. “For that he will always be sorry.”
A CNBC spokesman declined to comment.