A former National Security Agency (NSA) employee pleaded guilty on Monday to attempting to sell classified national defense information to an FBI employee he believed to be an agent of the Russian Federation.
Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 31, of Colorado Springs, faces a possible life sentence after he pleaded guilty today to six counts of attempting to transmit classified National Defense Information (NDI) to an officer or agent of a foreign government, according to the Department of Justice.
His plea agreement states that federal prosecutors agreed not to request more than 22 years in prison, but the U.S. authorities said the judge would ultimately determine his sentence.
Dalke reportedly admitted to the charges during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore, where he answered the judge’s questions concerning the terms of his deal and acknowledged he has been taking medication for mental illness over the last year while in custody.
Dalke, an Army veteran, worked as an Information Systems Security Designer for the U.S. intelligence agency, which focuses on gathering and analyzing intelligence and counterintelligence from foreign and domestic sources.
During his short employment with the agency, authorities said Dalke obtained three documents classified as Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information. According to court documents, the information he planned to give to the purported Russian agent included military offensive capabilities of an unnamed country and other sensitive U.S. defense capabilities.
“Dalke admitted that between August and September 2022, in order to demonstrate both his ‘legitimate access and willingness to share,’ he used an encrypted email account to transmit excerpts of three classified documents to an individual he believed to be a Russian agent,” DOJ officials said in a news release. “In actuality, that person was an FBI online covert employee.”
In August 2022, Dalke requested $85,000 in exchange for all the classified information, which unknowingly told the FBI online covert employee would be of value to Russia and would disseminate more information in the future when he returned to the Washington, D.C., area.
Federal authorities arrested Dalke on September 28, 2022, at Union Station in downtown Denver after transferring five files — four containing classified information— using a laptop computer and instructions provided by the covert FBI employee.
The other file contained a letter, which said in Russian and Cyrillic characters: “My friends!” and states, in part, “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.”
The FBI arrested Dalke moments after he transmitted the files.
According to court documents, Dalke requested a 9-month leave of absence shortly after he began working for the agency to help a family member with a medical condition. But when the agency denied his request, Dalke submitted his resignation.
After leaving the agency and giving the classified information to the undercover FBI employee, court documents state that Dalke reapplied to work at the NSA.
Last year, Dalke’s federal public defender reportedly downplayed his clients’ access to the top secret information since he worked for the intelligence agency for less than a month.