NSA Employee Gets 22 Years in Prison for Trying to Give Top Secret Info to Russia

NSA Employee Gets 22 Years in Prison for Trying to Give Top Secret Info to Russia

A former employee of the National Security Agency was sentenced to 262 months, just shy of 22 years, in prison on Monday for trying to send classified information to someone he thought was a Russian spy, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). As it turns out, the Russian spy was actually an FBI agent.

Jareh Sebastian Dalke, a 32-year-old from Colorado Springs, was serving as an Information Systems Security Designer for the NSA in 2022 when he started communicating with the undercover FBI agent. On Aug. 26, 2022, Dalke requested $US85,000 from what he thought was a Russian agent in exchange for information, according to the DOJ. Dalke emailed some excerpts from the documents through an encrypted email provider, which is only identified as both foreign and a “legitimate company.”

After the terms were agreed upon, Dalke met the supposed Russian spy at Union Station in downtown Denver with a laptop. At that point, Dalke reportedly handed over four documents that were marked Top Secret NDI, highly classified information related to national defense. Dalke was arrested a short time later.

Dalke, who served in the U.S. Army from 2015-2018 before becoming a civilian employee at NSA, began by sending the undercover FBI agent a cryptocurrency address for payment and deposited a similar amount to what he received during the scheme to the crypto exchange Kraken under his real name, according to court documents. But that wasn’t the only transparently stupid thing Dalke did. NSA tracks every document that’s printed at its facilities, something that made it easy to link these documents to Dalke.

From court documents:

NSA records regarding historical user activity on NSA systems reflect that DALKE printed each of the three classified documents, excerpts of which the OCE received from Email Account-1, as well as the full classified document which the OCE received from Email Account-1. DALKE was the only NSA employee to have printed all of these documents.

Dalke pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2023 and explained he was deeply in debt. Court documents available on the PACER database show Dalke filed for bankruptcy in 2017 owing about $US90,000 to various creditors, including about $US30,000 in student loans.

Typically, high-level security clearances aren’t handed out to people with big debt problems. That makes them more likely to do risky things for money. But given the fact that the average American was carrying $US21,800 in personal debt last year, excluding mortgages, it may be more and more difficult to find Americans to work in highly sensitive jobs.

But it probably wasn’t just money problems that caused Dalke to reach out to what he thought were Russian agents. Court documents quote Dalke’s communications, which said he recently learned of having some Russian heritage, “which is part of why I have come to you as opposed to others.” Dalke also said he applied to work at NSA because 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.”

Prosecutors were quite pleased with the sentence of nearly 22 years and Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed that approval in a press release on Monday.

“This defendant, who had sworn an oath to defend our country, believed he was selling classified national security information to a Russian agent, when in fact, he was outing himself to the FBI,” Garland said. “This sentence demonstrates that those who seek to betray our country will be held accountable for their crimes. I am grateful to the FBI Denver and Washington Field Offices for their extraordinary work on this case.”

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.