Ex-NSA techie pleads guilty to selling state secrets to Russia

Ex-NSA techie pleads guilty to selling state secrets to Russia

October 24, 2023 at 12:52PM

A former NSA tech has pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act by providing classified information to individuals he believed were Russian spies. Jareh Sebastian Dalke faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, but the government has agreed to seek a sentence of no more than 22 years if Dalke fully cooperates and provides valuable and accurate information. Dalke admitted to sharing excerpts and complete copies of classified documents with an undercover FBI employee posing as a Russian official. He intended to sell state secrets to pay off his debt. Dalke’s actions were discovered due to his printed documents and transactions with cryptocurrency. This incident is one of several recent cases of cyber espionage impacting the US government.

In the meeting notes, it is mentioned that a former US National Security Agency employee named Jareh Sebastian Dalke has pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Espionage Act. He was caught handing classified information to FBI agents whom he believed were Russian spies. Dalke will be sentenced in April 2024 and could face up to life in prison. However, in his plea agreement, the government agreed to seek a sentence no greater than 262 months (just under 22 years) if Dalke fully cooperates and provides truthful, complete, accurate, and valuable information.

Dalke admitted to transmitting excerpts from three classified documents and sending four documents in their entirety to an FBI online covert employee. All of these documents contained national defense information classified as top secret. Prior to his contact with the FBI posing as a Russian official, Dalke had resigned from the NSA shortly after being employed for less than a month. His initial communication with the “Russian contact” occurred weeks after his resignation.

Dalke explained to the FBI employee that he took the job at the NSA due to his questions about the US’s role in global damage and his desire for change and curiosity for secrets. After resigning from the NSA, Dalke reapplied and was hired for a new position that he believed would enable him to obtain more secrets.

The motive behind Dalke selling state secrets to the Russians was his significant debt. He disclosed to the undercover FBI employee that he owed $237,000, with $93,000 due soon. Dalke requested $85,000 in an unnamed cryptocurrency for the documents he possessed and promised more in the future. The FBI paid him approximately $16,499 in cryptocurrency for the information, most of which he quickly transferred to his personal bank account.

Despite assuming that cryptocurrency transactions were anonymous, Dalke made an error that led the FBI to him. He printed the documents he sent to the undercover FBI employee using his NSA account. The FBI easily determined that only his account had printed those specific documents based on historical data on NSA systems. Dalke also reportedly sent some of the paid cryptocurrency to a wallet on the Kraken crypto exchange registered under his own name.

The meeting notes conclude by mentioning that there have been other recent incidents of cyber espionage affecting the US government. These include a US Air Force National Guard member posting classified information online for attention, which later found its way onto Russian-linked Telegram channels. Two US Navy sailors also pleaded guilty to providing sensitive military information to Chinese spies, and a civilian US government employee working as an IT helpdesk technician was arrested for transmitting US national defense information to Ethiopia.

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