Ex-NSA Worker Admits Guilt in Russia Spy Case

Defendant sent a thank-you note to fake contact before trying to turn over files
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2023 7:10 PM CDT
Ex-NSA Worker Admits Guilt in Russia Spy Case
A sign stands outside the National Security Agency campus in 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A former National Security Agency employee from Colorado pleaded guilty Monday to trying to sell classified national security information to Russia. Federal prosecutors agreed to not ask for more than about 22 years in prison for Jareh Sebastian Dalke when he is sentenced in April if he adheres to the terms of a plea deal, but the judge will ultimately decide his punishment. Dalke, a 31-year-old Army veteran from Colorado Springs, technically faces up to a life sentence for giving the information to an undercover FBI agent whom prosecutors say Dalke believed was a Russian agent. However, accepting responsibility for a crime usually leads to a lighter sentence.

Dalke told the agent that he wanted to "cause change" after questioning the US role in causing damage to the world, but he also said he was $237,000 in debt, according to court documents. He decided to work with Russia, officials said, because his heritage "ties back to your country." Dalke pleaded guilty during a hearing before US District Judge Raymond Moore. He only spoke in answer to questions from Moore about whether he understood the terms of the deal. Dalke acknowledged that he has been taking medications for mental illness while in custody for about a year. He was paid $16,499 in cryptocurrency last year for excerpts of some documents that he passed on to the agent to show what he had, and then he offered to sell the rest of the information for $85,000, according to the plea deal.

The agent directed him to go to Denver's downtown train station on Sept. 28, 2022, and send the documents using a secure digital connection during a four-hour window, per the AP. Dalke arrived with his laptop and first used the connection to send a thank-you letter that opened and closed in Russian and in which he said he looked "forward to our friendship and shared benefit," according to the plea deal. Moments after he used his laptop to transfer all the files, FBI agents arrested him. According to the indictment, the information Dalke sought to give to Russia included a threat assessment of the military offensive capabilities of a third, unnamed country. It also includes a description of sensitive US defense capabilities.

(More espionage stories.)

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