Crime

Jareh Dalke Only Needed 25 Days to Commit Espionage, Feds Say

This KKTV screen capture shows an FBI search of a Colorado Springs residence reportedly tied to Jareh Dalke's arrest.
This KKTV screen capture shows an FBI search of a Colorado Springs residence reportedly tied to Jareh Dalke's arrest. KKTV
On September 28 in Denver, the U.S. Justice Department arrested thirty-year-old Colorado Springs resident Jareh Dalke on espionage charges related to his civilian employment with the National Security Agency — a gig that lasted a grand total of 25 days beginning in early June.

This was the second espionage bust with a link to the Mile High City within the past year; last October, former Kent Denver teachers Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were cuffed on similar charges, to which both pleaded guilty in February. And the account of events in Dalke's arrest affidavit offers a virtual tour of major metro attractions, including Union Station, the Cherry Creek mall and Ikea.

According to the Department of Justice, Dalke was a member of the U.S. Army from approximately 2015 to 2018 and received a security clearance up to the "Secret level" in 2016. He subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity and information assurance from Western Governor's University and a master's degree from Norwich University, "where his studies included a research focus on cyber-policy and technical-vulnerability analysis," according to the affidavit. Recently, he was reportedly pursuing a doctorate at American Military University "with a research focus on cyber-affairs and advanced persistent threats," and he claimed to have "elementary proficiency" in Russian and Spanish.

These credentials were undoubtedly key to his hiring as an information systems security designer for an NSA office in Washington, D.C. — but he didn't last long. His first day on the job was June 6 and his last was July 1, three days after he submitted his resignation.

Then, on July 29, the affidavit says Dalke began communicating via encrypted email "with an individual he believed to be associated with a foreign government," but who was actually an undercover FBI agent.

Over the following days, Dalke reportedly told this individual 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." He also allegedly claimed that he'd applied to become a U.S. government employee because he had "questioned our role in damage to the world in the past and by a mixture of curiosity and a desire to cause change," and during the course of his duties, he had "exfiltrated some information that is of a very high level."

These actions weren't entirely altruistic, the affidavit contends. The document notes that Dalke filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2017, and even though this request was granted the next year, he told the agent that his debts had mounted to $237,000, of which $93,000 was "coming due very soon." As a result, he was requesting $85,000 for the information that he said was in his possession, to be paid in cryptocurrency and funneled to him via an exchange called Kraken.

Dalke is accused of transmitting excerpts of three documents to the agent during the first week of August: a table of contents and cover page for a threat assessment about the unnamed foreign government, plans to update a cryptographic program, and an analysis of what were dubbed "sensitive U.S. defense capabilities." And after his payment had been sent, Dalke said he would be "happy to chip away" at his remaining money worries by providing "additional future information."

According to the affidavit, Dalke said he could send more documents the next month if his contact "would be able to set up [a] secure connection at either the Cherry Creek Mall or City Park in Denver." On September 25, with arrangements in the works, Dale and an individual referred to as "Resident-1" went off on what is portrayed as something of a scouting expedition for the data transfer. They traveled from Colorado Springs to the Ikea store in Centennial and the nearby Park Meadows shopping complex; they spent around 45 minutes at each location before traveling to the Cherry Creek mall and hanging out for around two and a half hours.

In the end, though, the undercover agent chose Union Station as the setting for the exchange. Dalke was instructed to go there between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. "to complete the transmission." Instead, he was arrested and charged with three counts of violating the Espionage Act.

A onetime volunteer for the Colorado Rangers, a reserve law enforcement group, and the listed president of Las Vegas-based Shepherd Holdings, Ltd., Dalke faces "a potential sentence of death or any term of years up to life," the DOJ notes.

Click to read the Jareh Dalke arrest affidavit.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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