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Defense Intelligence Agency worker arrested for leaking to reporters

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Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testifies during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats” on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2018.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

A counter-terrorism analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested Wednesday on federal charges that he leaked top secret and other classified information — including details of a foreign country’s weapons systems — to two reporters in 2018 and this year.

The worker, Henry Kyle Frese, 30, held top-secret clearance at the DIA, where he began as a contractor in January 2017, and eventually became a full-time employee.

One of the journalists who allegedly received secret information from Frese had apparently been involved in a romantic relationship with him, authorities said.

That reporter ended up writing at least eight articles based on at least five compromised intelligence reports leaked by Frese, according to a criminal indictment. Frese re-tweeted a link to the first article that reporter wrote based on information he had allegedly leaked to her, the indictment says.

“Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.

An indictment alleges that Frese accessed classified intelligence reports, some which were not connected to his job duties, in spring 2018 and provided top secret information about another country’s weapons systems to a journalist who lived at the same Alexandria, Virginia, residential address as Frese.

The Justice Department said that it “based on reviews” of the public social media pages of Frese and that reporter, “it appears that they were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time” in which Frese allegedly leaked the information to her.

“The unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States,” the Justice Department said in a press release announcing Frese’s indictment in U.S District Court in Virginia.

A week after Frese allegedly accessed one of the intelligence reports, the first journalist sent Frese a direct message on Twitter asking whether he would speak with another journalist, according to the department.

“Frese stated that he was ‘down’ to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 because he wanted to see Journalist 1 ‘progress.’ “

The identities of the reporters and their employers were not disclosed by authorities.

The indictment against Frese says that on Sept. 24, 2019, surveillance of Frese caught him  on a cell phone call transmitting national defense information to the second reporter. 

Those disclosures allegedly contained information classified as secret, “meaning that the unauthorized disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to cause serious harm to the national security of the United States,” the department said.

Frese faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of each of the two counts of wilful transmission of national defense information with which he was charged.

“Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with TOP SECRET information related to the national defense of our country,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Frese allegedly violated that trust, the oath he swore to uphold, and is charged with engaging in dastardly and felonious conduct at the expense of our country,” Terwilliger said.

“This indictment should serve as a clear reminder to all of those similarly entrusted with National Defense Information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.”

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Trump suspends travel from Brazil as coronavirus pandemic worsens in South America

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US President Donald Trump arrives to take part in a joint press conference with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump is suspending travel from Brazil to the U.S. as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in Latin America’s largest nation and economy. 

The president’s order, published Sunday, denies entry to “all aliens” who were in Brazil two weeks prior to their attempted entry into the United States. The order takes effect May 28 at 11:59 pm ET. 

Brazil has rapidly become one of the hardest hit countries in the world as the World Health Organization warns that the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted from Europe and the U.S. to South America. 

“We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases and clearly there’s a concern across many of those countries, but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said Friday during a news briefing at the organization’s Geneva headquarters. 

Brazil has more than 347,000 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 22,013 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. At this point only the United States is harder hit in terms of total positive cases. 

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus, dismissing it as a “little flu” and attacking stay-at-home orders imposed by governors as a “crime.” He is a close ideological ally of Trump. 

Bolsonaro’s own press secretary tested positive for the virus in March after attending a gathering with the Brazilian president and Trump at Mar-a-Lago. The incident raised concern about the health of Bolsonaro and Trump at the time, though both leaders have tested negative for the virus.  

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U.S. likely impose sanctions against China over Hong Kong law

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 22, 2020.

Leo Ramirez | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. government will likely impose sanctions on China if Beijing implements national security laws that would give it greater control over autonomous Hong Kong, White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said Sunday. 

The draft legislation represents a takeover of Hong Kong, O’Brien said, and as a consequence U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would likely be unable to certify that the city maintains a “high degree” of autonomy. This would result in the imposition of sanctions against China under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, O’Brien said.  

Pompeo has already called the proposal a “death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy. O’Brien warned that Hong Kong could lose its status as a major hub for global finance. 

“It’s hard to see how Hong Kong could remain the Asian financial center that it’s become if China takes over,” O’Brien told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” He said financial services initially came to Hong Kong because of the rule of law that protected free enterprise and a capitalist system.

“If all those things go away, I’m not sure how the financial community can stay there. …They’re not going to stay in Hong Kong to be dominated by the People’s Republic of China, the communist party.” 

The legislation was announced during the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress. The session had been delayed for months during the coronavirus pandemic. Hong Kong faced months of at times violent anti-government protests before the pandemic effectively shut China down.  

Hong Kong has been governed under the “one country, two systems” principle since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The system gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and a greater degree of freedom for the special administrative region than the rest of China. 

A draft decision on “establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms” for Hong Kong was submitted to China’s parliament Friday, according to state news agency Xinhua. A document explaining the decision said the one-country two systems principle “has achieved unprecedented success in Hong Kong,” but the “increasingly notable national security risks” in the city “have become a prominent problem,” according to Xinhua.  

The document says activities “have seriously challenged the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, harmed the rule of law, and threatened national sovereignty, security and development interests,” according to Xinhua.

The move from China has incited strong opposition from pro-democracy activists and politicians. Thousands of protesters demonstrated for the first time since the introduction of the national security laws on Sunday. Hong Kong police fired tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Nearly 200 political figures from the U.K., Europe, Australia, North America and Asia condemned the laws in a joint statement. 

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Airlines change summer air travel procedures

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Ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, all states in the U.S. began to lift some restrictions implemented to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Government officials are still urging people to practice social distancing and to wear masks in public. 

Changing opinions from scientists and health officials have contributed to some people refusing to wear masks because public health authorities initially advised against wearing masks, saying there was little evidence that it would help prevent people from getting sick.

China’s top diplomat criticized U.S. efforts to hold China accountable for its alleged role in the spread of the coronavirus, calling any aims to force Beijing to pay compensation for the coronavirus a “daydream.”

The number of coronavirus fatalities in New York state fell below 100, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, marking the lowest daily death toll since March 24.

This is CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 5.33 million
  • Global deaths: At least 341,513
  • U.S. cases: More than 1.62 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 96,046

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Air travel is going to look different this summer because of the coronavirus

9:03 a.m. ET — Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kickoff to the peak travel season and while demand is showing some signs of life, it is still down about 90% from a year ago. The virus and concerns about it spreading have prompted new procedures at airlines and federal agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security, which includes TSA and customs, is exploring temperature checks at airports. The Transportation Security Administration is also changing some polices to limit physical contact, such as asking travelers to scan their own boarding passes and that they remove food and other items from their bags so officers don’t have to touch bins.

Starting this month, U.S. airlines require that travelers wear masks on board. They are tweaking boarding to fill seats from back to front to limit contact with other travelers. Some airlines are limiting the number of travelers on board, or letting travelers know when their flights are full. Experts warn its nearly impossible to socially distance on an aircraft, however. —Leslie Josephs

AngloGold Ashanti closes mine in South Africa after 53 employees tested positive

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