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A U.S. intelligence official has been arrested and charged with leaking classified material to two journalists, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday afternoon. The official, Kyle Frese, appeared to be in a romantic relationship with one of the journalists, according to the Justice Department, citing social media pages.
Zach Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the northern district of Virginia, whose office charged Frese, called the leaks dastardly and felonious.
DOJ said in a press release that court-ordered surveillance caught Frese, a Defense Intelligence Agency counterterrorism analyst, sharing classified information with one of the two journalists in a phone call.
The news is the latest example of DOJs wide-ranging leak hunts, and in a conference call about Freses indictment, Assistant Attorney General John Demers cited former Attorney General Jeff Sessions August 2017 press conference about a leak crackdown.
The department has charged six people with leaks in just over two years, according to Demers. He said the probes are challenging, and that the First Amendment concerns make them doubly challenging, but added that those challenges had not kept the department from ferreting out leakers.
The journalist who Frese allegedly had a relationship with published at least eight articles with classified information from five intelligence reports.
Terwilliger would not comment on whether DOJ plans to charge the journalists involved, and they were not identified.
Right now we're focused on the leaker not the journalist, he said. Asked whether DOJ was trying to send a message to reporters, he added, No. The Justice Department is trying to send a message to leakers.
Frese was arrested Wednesday morning when he arrived at the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to DOJ.