The NSA, as a rule, wants to employ people who are good at spying. But according to the FBI, one former employee tried to turn the tables on the agency and was caught in the act.
Per details released by the Department of Justice this week, a Colorado resident was arrested Wednesday and charged with attempting to transmit classified information to a representative of a foreign government.
The press release says that Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, was employed by the NSA from June 6th to July 1st, 2022. Between August and September 2022, feds say that he used an encrypted email account to transmit portions of three classified documents to an individual who he believed to be working for a foreign government.
In fact, that individual was an FBI agent who lured Dalke into a sting operation that eventually led to his capture.
An affidavit from the FBI in support of the case gives further details. After contacting the agent that he believed to be working for a foreign government, Dalke was said to have offered extracts from three different classified documents: the cover page of a threat assessment of a foreign government’s military capabilities; an unnamed federal agency’s plans to update a cryptographic program; and a threat assessment of sensitive US defense capabilities.
Information in the first of these documents was classified as “secret,” with the latter two classified as “top secret,” a review by the FBI concluded. Dalke apparently told the undercover agent in an email that the three excerpts were just a “small sample to what is possible.”
Dalke apparently told the undercover agent that the three excerpts were just a “small sample to what is possible”
In exchange for transmitting the full documents, the FBI says that Dalke requested a payment of $85,000 in cryptocurrency. The undercover agent sent Dalke a preliminary payment of around $4,800 in cryptocurrency, which he then transferred to an account at the Kraken exchange and converted into US dollars to withdraw.
Though the affidavit doesn’t specify the cryptocurrency used, the quantity and price listed — roughly 30 units equalling $4,800 in late August — means it was likely to be the privacy-focused coin Monero, which has emerged as a top choice for fraudulent transactions online.
After the initial transaction was made, the FBI says that Dalke requested that his contact set up a secure connection at a public location from which he could transmit the documents in their entirety. The undercover agent told him that he could find this at Union Station in Denver; but on arrival, Dalke was arrested by FBI agents and taken into custody.
He has now been charged with three violations of the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to transmit sensitive information to a foreign power. A guilty charge carries a possible penalty of death or life imprisonment.