Former NSA worker sentenced for attempting to pass secrets to person believed to be Russian agent

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

A former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA) received a 21-year prison sentence for trying to sell classified documents to a man he believed was a Russian intelligence agent.

Jareh Dalke was given the sentence by a Colorado judge on Monday, seven months after pleading guilty to attempted espionage. In his sentencing remarks, US District Judge Raymond Moore said that Dalke took a job at the NSA solely to transmit classified information to Russia, and should consider himself fortunate to not receive a longer prison term.

“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 excerpts of classified documents and showed them to a man he thought was a Russian government agent. Two of these files were marked Top Secret, while the third was at a lower level of classification.

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 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.”