Ex-NSA worker sentenced for passing secrets to ‘Russian agent’

Jareh Dalke attempted to sell classified files to an undercover FBI operative

A former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for attempting to sell classified documents to a man he thought was a Russian intelligence agent.

Jareh Dalke was handed the sentence by a Colorado judge on Monday, seven months after he pleaded guilty to attempted espionage. In his sentencing remarks, US District Judge Raymond Moore said that Dalke took a job at the NSA with the sole aim of transmitting classified information to Russia, and should count himself lucky that he did not receive a longer stretch behind bars.

“This was blatant. It was brazen and, in my mind, it was deliberate. It was a betrayal, and it was as close to treasonous as you can get,” Moore said.

Dalke worked as a cybersecurity designer at the NSA for less than a month in June 2022. During that time, he printed out excerpts of classified documents and showed them to a man he believed was an agent of the Russian government. Two of these files were marked Top Secret, while the third was at a lower level of classification.

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According to court documents, Dalke offered to sell the full copies of the files for $85,000, and the man agreed, setting up an exchange at a train station in Denver that September. The man was an undercover FBI agent, and Dalke was arrested at the exchange. 

He was charged with six counts of attempting to transmit classified information to a foreign agent, and accepted a plea bargain last October. As part of the deal, he agreed that he had sold the documents knowing that the “information would be used to injure the United States and to benefit Russia,” the US Justice Department said in a statement on Monday.

Dalke told the court that he was not driven by ideology or financial gain, but by the thrill of espionage. 

According to the Justice Department, the files that Dalke stole contained “highly sensitive information relating to foreign targeting of US systems, and information on US cyber operations, among other topics.”

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