As speculation about the identities of the two CIA "whistleblowers" who helped trigger Nancy Pelosi's impeachment investigation reaches a fever pitch, we are reminded once again what happens to real whistleblowers who expose government secrets to public scrutiny via 'non-approved' channels.
First, here's Matt Taibbi with a reminder of the consequences that whistleblowers often face.
I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids.
Circling back to Wednesday's news, the Washington Post and CNBC report that "leaker" Henry Kyle Frese, 30, a counterterrorism analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been accused in Alexandria, Va. federal court of illicitly providing classified info to two journalists in 2018 and 2019. The information he provided included one report about a foreign country's weapon systems, according to court filings seen by WaPo.
As an analyst, Frese held top-secret clearance at the agency. A DoJ statement said Frese "was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information."
To further discredit him, the DoJ alleged that Frese and one of the reporters "were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time" when the information was leaked, making it seem like Frese's disclosures were the product of tawdry pillowtalk.
This reporter ended up writing at least eight stories based on five compromised intelligence reports provided by Frese. He even retweeted a link to one of her articles (as if he was proud of it).
It appears that Frese was invested enough in the leaking that he was willing to take risks to aide his journalist girlfriend. Frese allegedly accessed classified reports that had nothing to do with his job during the course of his leaking, helping arouse the agency's suspicion.
Though the indictment didn't say whether any harm had actually befallen an agent because of these leaks, the DoJ said that the disclosure "could reasonably be expected....[to cause] exceptionally grave harm" to American personnel.
Frese only spoke to the second journalist after the reporter with whom he was romantically involved sent him a twitter DM asking if he would be willing to speak with a colleague.
"The unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States," the Justice Department said in a press release announcing Frese’s indictment in U.S District Court in Virginia.
A week after Frese allegedly accessed one of the intelligence reports, the first journalist sent Frese a direct message on Twitter asking whether he would speak with another journalist, according to the department.
"Frese stated that he was ‘down’ to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 'progress.'"
According to Twitter user Matthew Keys, the female reporter in question who was the recipient of Frese's leaks is CNBC national security reporter Amanda Macias.
Can confirm based on public records and information contained in the court records: The journalist defense employee Henry K. Frese is accused of leaking classified information to is @amanda_m_macias, a CNBC national security reporter. The affiliated news organization is NBC News. https://t.co/UdWYab0VlD— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) October 9, 2019
Eventually, investigators caught Frese transmitting classified information during a phone call, and used this evidence to arrest him on Wednesday.
According to the Hill, John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said during a call with reporters that the arrest is part of a "crackdown" on employees who leak classified intel.
"Leaks of classified information cause undeniable damage to our national security," Demers said (though he refused to give a straight answer when asked how Fese's disclosures impacted US personnel.
Demers said Frese was the sixth person to be charged with leaking to the media or the public over the past two years.
Frese is the sixth individual to be arrested for leaking out of the intelligence community over the past two years. And expect more arrests to come.