Romance could cost him dearly. On Saturday March 2, a man named David Franklin Slater was arrested and charged in Nebraska for disclosing classified information, the US Department of Justice said in a statement. This former US army colonel is accused of having transmitted secret information about the war in Ukraine… on a dating site.

According to the indictment available online, David Franklin allegedly communicated between February and April 2022, on “a foreign online dating platform”, with an Internet user whose name is not mentioned, who claimed to be “a woman living in Ukraine. The retired officer, who appeared to be in a virtual romantic relationship with this person, allegedly provided him with information about “military targets and Russian military capabilities regarding the invasion of Ukraine.” He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Did he knowingly give information to a Ukrainian military source or was he lured by the prospect of a romantic relationship? The judge to whom he is presented this Tuesday will decide. Aged 63, David Franklin worked as a civilian employee of the US Air Force at the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM). This quality, coupled with a defense secret clearance, allowed him to attend several meetings on the war in Ukraine.

The indictment gives an anthology of messages sent by the interlocutor of the former officer, designated as a “co-conspirator”. He nicknames him “my secret informant, my love” or even “my secret agent”, and urges him to communicate information to him. March 15: “You were the first to tell me that NATO members were traveling by train and only now is it being announced by the media here.” April 15: “My beloved Dave, thank you for this valuable information, it’s great that two American officials are visiting Kiev.” Or again, on April 19: “Dave, I hope that NATO will prepare a very unpleasant ‘surprise’ for Putin tomorrow! You will tell me ?”

Logically, the document does not detail David Franklin’s messages. It simply states that the accused transmitted “classified information about military targets in the context of the Russian war in Ukraine” on March 28, as well as other information “concerning Russian military capabilities”. “The Department of Justice will seek to hold accountable those who knowingly and willfully endanger their country by disclosing classified information,” said the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case.

This case collides with another, similar to a lesser extent. Jack Teixeira, a young 22-year-old American soldier, was arrested in 2023 for a leak of classified defense documents, particularly on the war in Ukraine. He pleaded guilty Monday, sealing a deal for 16 years in prison in exchange for dropping the most serious espionage charges. He had been indicted, notably by a federal grand jury, on six counts of “willful preservation and transmission of information relating to national defense”, each punishable by a sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Also read: Leak of American secrets: a young National Guard officer arrested

Hired as a computer and communications specialist at a military base on Cape Cod, near Boston, Jack Teixeira had published confidential information on a discussion group on the Discord platform, which subsequently circulated on other social networks. The secret documents had revealed US intelligence concerns about the viability of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. They also implied that Washington was collecting intelligence on its closest partners, notably Israel and South Korea.

The affair had embarrassed Washington and raised questions about possible security breaches, even though the young soldier had a secret defense clearance, allowing him to access this sensitive information, despite his modest rank.