FBI counter-espionage agents accuse Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, a US Army veteran in Colorado, of trying to sell classified documents to a foreign spy for $85,000 in cryptocurrency. Dalke worked briefly as an National Security Agency employee in the Washington, DC, area. NSA photo.
FBI counterespionage agents have arrested an ex-National Security Agency employee and US Army veteran who tried to sell classified documents to foreign spies, according to an indictment unsealed in Colorado.
Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, is slated to appear Thursday, Sept. 29, in Denver, before US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter to face three counts of violating the Espionage Act by attempting to transmit national defense information to a foreign agent.
The Colorado Springs man served as an NSA information security designer with top-secret clearance from June 6 to July 1, 2022.
He left the Army as a private first class in 2018 after serving three years as a health care specialist with secret security clearance. He’s also a volunteer with the Colorado Rangers, a reserve support organization for law enforcement agencies, where he helps to solve digital crimes.
No attorney has been named for him on the federal court docket.
FBI counter-espionage agents accuse Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, a US Army veteran in Colorado, of trying to sell classified documents to a foreign spy for $85,000 in cryptocurrency. FBI photo.
According to a criminal complaint filed shortly before his Wednesday arrest, Dalke used an encrypted email system three times between Aug. 1 and Monday to send four classified documents to an unnamed foreign spy.
But he was really shipping the records to an undercover FBI employee.
And agents say they'd known Dalke was their target because he was the only person at the undisclosed NSA location near Washington, DC, who'd printed out the classified dossier being offered for sale, which included top-secret, sensitive compartmented information, NOFORN (not releasable to foreign nationals/governments/non-US citizens), and ORCON (originator controlled) documents.
The information allegedly revealed a foreign nation’s military offensive capabilities, US plans to update a cryptographic program, and a threat assessment of sensitive US defense capabilities.
FBI counterespionage agents accuse Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, a US Army veteran in Colorado, of trying to sell classified documents to a foreign spy for $85,000 in cryptocurrency. FBI image.
According to the FBI, Dalke is pursuing a doctorate degree at American Military University with a research focus on cyber affairs and advanced persistent threats.
He also claims to have elementary proficiency in Russian and Spanish, according to his professional resume.
The indictment doesn’t specify the foreign espionage network Dalke allegedly thought he’d contacted.
But the FBI claimed Dalke's efforts included reaching out to the SVR, Russia’s external intelligence agency, through Tor, an open-source software program designed to conceal an internet user’s location by directing online traffic through a relay network.
Accused of trying to sell classified secrets to a foreign government, US Army veteran Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, was employed by the National Security Agency as an information system security designer from June 6 to July 1, 2022. National Security Agency photo.
Dalke’s tenure at the NSA was brief.
Hired on June 6, he cited a family illness when he submitted his resignation 22 days later, vowing to return to the agency in nine months. He was debriefed from his top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance on July 1 and journeyed back to Colorado Springs, according to the FBI.
Court records obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine show that Dalke filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for both his personal assets and those of a venture, Shepherd Holdings Ltd., in Colorado Springs on Dec. 12, 2017.
He owed $83,796.86 — roughly 40% of it in student loan debt — but earned only $1,900 per month, he reported.
FBI counterespionage agents accuse Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, of trying to sell secrets he obtained while briefly employed as a National Security Agency information systems security designer in the Washington, DC, area. National Security Agency photo.
The online courtship between the undercover FBI employee and Dalke allegedly began in late July and continued through September.
According to his indictment, Dalke told the contact on Aug. 3 that he’d “recently learned that my heritage ties back to your country, which is part of why I have come to you as opposed to others.”
He told the undercover agent he’d “questioned our role in damage to the world in the past and by mixture of curiosity for secrets and a desire to cause change” before he’d “exfiltrated some information” that was “of a very high level” from both the NSA and another unnamed US agency.
Dalke told the FBI contact that a glitch in the system allowed him to see secrets he wasn’t supposed to be able to access, but he had also gone broke and wanted to “help balance scales of the world while also tending to my own needs,” the indictment states.
FBI counterespionage agents accuse Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, a US Army veteran in Colorado, of trying to sell classified documents to a foreign spy for $85,000 in cryptocurrency. Dalke worked briefly as a National Security Agency employee in the Washington, DC, area. FBI photo.
In his online fan dance with the undercover FBI operative, Dalke allegedly emailed samples of the records he’d stolen. He didn’t tell the contact he no longer worked for the NSA, instead claiming he was assigned to a remote location, prosecutors said.
In exchange for the rest of the records, Dalke asked for the person he thought was a spy to pay him $85,000 in cryptocurrency, a portion of the $237,000 in debt he’d accrued since his bankruptcy, with a $93,000 payment “coming due very soon,” according to his indictment.
On Aug. 26, Dalke allegedly downloaded an initial $4,559.81 payment from the Kraken cryptocurrency exchange and deposited it into his bank account.
The undercover FBI operative told Dalke he needed to perform a “digital drop” of the rest of the records in the Washington, DC, area, according to the indictment. Dalke received nearly 72 more units of cryptocurrency worth $11,422.53, which included $2,000 in travel expenses to the nation’s capital, but he allegedly balked at leaving Colorado.
Dalke eventually agreed to transmit a portion of the information from Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall and then the rest at Union Station downtown on Wednesday, according to the FBI.
He was arrested in Denver later that day.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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