An Army veteran tried to pass classified U.S. documents about domestic and foreign military capabilities to Russian agents last year, asking for $85,000 in return. But his ‘Russian contact’ was an FBI agent, Department of Justice officials said.
Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 31, of Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty Monday to six counts of attempting to transmit classified National Defense Information to a purported Russian agent that was actually undercover FBI. Dalke obtained the documents while working for the National Security Agency, officials said, and now faces a maximum penalty of up to life in prison.
Dalke sent three documents classified as “Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI),” according to the DOJ, meaning the contained information to be among the nation’s mostly closely guarded secrets.
“My friends!” Dalke wrote in a letter he sent along with the documents. “I am very happy to finally provide this information to you. . . . I look forward to our friendship and shared benefit. Please let me know if there are desired documents to find and I will try when I return to my main office.”
Federal agents raided his Colorado Springs home moments after he sent the documents, officials said.
Dalke told the undercover FBI agent that he “questioned our role in damage to the world in the past and by mixture of curiosity for secrets and a desire to cause change,” according to DOJ plea documents.
Dalke worked for NSA from June 6, 2022, to July 1, 2022, as an Information Systems Security Designer. He resigned after he was denied nine months of leave to care for a family member with a medical condition then re-applied for employment and was assigned to the same Maryland facility that September.
He made contact with the agents he believed were Russian during the same time period.
Dalke served in the Army between 2015 and 2018 as a healthcare specialist and ended his service as a Private First Class, according to plea documents.
Dalke did not deploy while in the Army and his awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Driver and Mechanic Badge, according to Army spokesperson Sgt. Pablo Saez.
The documents Dalke tried to pass to Russia contained details of a foreign government’s military offensive capabilities, update plans for a U.S. cryptographic program and sensitive U.S. defense capabilities, according to plea documents.
In order to demonstrate his “legitimate access and willingness to share,” Dalke used an encrypted email address to send excerpts of four Top Secret classified documents to a person he believed was a Russian agent, according to the DOJ.
Dalke initially shared documents by email in early August 2022 and the undercover agent paid him in the requested cryptocurrency worth nearly $16,500. He then arranged for another transfer in September at Union Station in downtown Denver to pay off his $237,000 debts, of which $93,000 was “coming due very soon.” Following instructions provided by the covert FBI employee, Dalke used a laptop to transfer five files, four of which contain Top Secret information, officials said.
The FBI arrested Dalke on Sept. 28, just moments after he transmitted the files.
As part of the plea agreement, Dalke admitted that he “willfully transmitted files to the FBI online covert employee with the intent and reason to believe the information would be used to injure the United States and to benefit Russia,” according to the DOJ.
His sentencing is scheduled for April 26, 2024. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington and Denver offices.
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