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Ex-NSA Employee Tried to Sell Top Secret Documents to Chip Away at Student Loan and Other Debts, Feds Say

National Security Agency

An entrance to the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters is seen. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

A former National Security Agency employee tried to sell Top Secret documents to someone he thought represented a foreign government in order to chip away at his student loan debt, federal prosecutors claimed.

Colorado man Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 30, had a brief stint as an NSA information systems security designer for less than a month between June 6 and July 1 of this year. Prosecutors allege that he wasted little time after that term before transmitting excerpts from three classified documents to a person he believed to be a representative of a foreign government with “many interests that are adverse to the United States.”

In fact, prosecutors say, the person at the other end of Dalke’s encrypted correspondence was an undercover FBI employee, identified in court papers as an “Online Covert Employee” (OCE).

On Aug. 1, 2022, Dalke allegedly told the OCE that he “recently learned that my heritage ties back to your country, which is part of why I have come to you as opposed to others.” Authorities say that Dalke boasted that he “exfiltrated some information that is of a very high level.”

According to the FBI’s affidavit, the OCE asked Dalke to prove his access to high-level classified information on Aug. 5.

A day later, the FBI says, Dalke sent the OCE excerpts from three classified documents and one classified document in its entirety in exchange for payment. Two of the excerpts were classified at the “Top Secret” level, and the NSA’s historical records show that Dalke printed all of these documents, authorities say.

“Dalke was the only NSA employee to have printed all of these documents,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.

A little more than a week later on Aug. 9, Dalke allegedly sent the OCE his cryptocurrency address for payment.

According to the FBI, Dalke had struggled with student loan and credit card debt for years and successfully filed for bankruptcy in 2017, which was granted the following year.

“At that time, Dalke reported that he had approximately $32,809.52 in student loan debt and $50,987.34 in other non-secured debt, primarily credit card debt,” the FBI’s affidavit says. “At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Dalke also reported that he had approximately $8,373.12 in total assets.”

His subsequent communications with the OCE appear to allude to that debt.

“On or about August 26, 2022, Dalke told the OCE that the total amount of his debt was $237,000, $93,000 of which was ‘coming due very soon,'” the affidavit states. “Accordingly, Dalke requested $85,000 in return for all the information currently in his possession. He said he would be ‘happy to chip away at the amount that remains with additional future information shared to you.'”

The FBI says that Dalke, who is from Colorado Springs, promised to obtain more classified information the next time he was in the area of Washington, D.C., and he tried to apply to the NSA.

“On August 24, 2022, NSA’s Human Resources Department, which was unaware of the investigation into Dalke due to the sensitivity of the investigation, conducted a telephonic interview with Dalke wherein Dalke expressed his desire to return to the NSA,” the affidavit states. “To date, the NSA has not extended an offer of further employment to Dalke.”

The FBI says that Dalke grew fearful of being caught during his communications with the OCE.

“Dalke sought assurances that the OCE truly was a ‘[Foreign Government-1] entity rather than americans [sic] trying to stifle a patriot,'” the affidavit states.

Prosecutors say that Dalke was arrested in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sept. 28, when he allegedly planned to transmit more information at a site set up by the FBI.

Dalke faces three charges under a section of Espionage Act involving alleged attempts to aid a foreign government, which carries a maximum sentence of death or life imprisonment.

Read the affidavit:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."