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FILE - This Thursday, June 6, 2013 file photo shows the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. Federal authorities say former NSA employee, Jareh Sebastian Dalke, tried this summer to sell classified documents from the agency to a foreign government. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Federal authorities say a Colorado Springs man this summer tried to sell classified documents from the National Security Agency to a foreign government for $85,000 in cryptocurrency, a crime that carries a potential death sentence or life in prison.

Jareh Sebastian Dalke, an Army veteran and former employee of the NSA, is accused of violating the Espionage Act for attempting to transmit national defense information to an officer or agent of a foreign government, the Department of Justice said in a news release. 

Dalke, 30, appeared Thursday in federal court in Denver. An attorney for him could not immediately be reached for comment.

Authorities say Dalke sent excerpts of three classified documents he had access to while he worked at the NSA to someone he believed was working for a foreign government, but was actually an undercover FBI agent. After sending the excerpts through an encrypted email account, he arranged to transfer the documents Sept. 28 in Denver, where the FBI arrested him. 

Dalke worked at the NSA as an informations systems security designer for less than a month, before he resigned June 28, according to the federal affidavit. He was assigned to a NSA facility in the Washington, D.C., area and held a top secret security clearance.

NSA records showed that Dalke was the only employee at the agency who had printed all three of the documents.

Through email, he told the undercover agent that he had taken highly sensitive information related to foreign targeting of the U.S. systems and information on U.S. cyber operations and asked to transfer the documents through a secure connection at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center or in City Park. One document was classified at the secret level and two documents were classified at the top secret level. 

In exchange for the information, Dalke requested $85,000, telling the undercover agent that he needed money and that “there is an opportunity to help balance scales of the world while also tending to my own needs,” according to the federal complaint. He also told the agent he would share additional information once he returned to the Washington area.

Court documents said Dalke filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and had about $34,000 in student loan debt and more than $50,000 in credit card debt. 

Dalke served as an E-3 private first class in the Army from 2015 to 2018 and held a top secret security clearance, granting him access to classified materials. In an exit survey from the NSA, he said he resigned due to a family illness that would require him to take off more than nine months from work. He acknowledged he was required to return all protected information. 

He served as a volunteer with the Colorado Rangers, a volunteer law enforcement reserve group that supports law enforcement agencies throughout Colorado, court documents said. His resume lists his current role as a lieutenant and commander of the digital crimes unit for the organization. His skills include specialized training with federal law enforcements related to digital forensics and dark web investigations.

Chief Ronald Abramson confirmed Dalke served as a sergeant for the Colorado Rangers and managed small teams of officers. Dalke was sworn into the agency in December 2018 after the reserve police academy, took a one-year leave of absence last year and returned this year, Abramson said.

“But the rest of that information is completely incorrect,” he said, adding that the Colorado Rangers does not have a digital crimes unit. 

“Obviously we’re enormously disappointed in the allegations and we’re going to allow the federal process to play itself out,” he said. Dalke is suspended from his duties until the federal process is complete.

His resume also claims he has elementary proficiency in Russian and Spanish, according to court documents.

Olivia Prentzel

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer for The Colorado Sun. Email: oliviaprentzel@coloradosun.com