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Ex-Air Force employee pleads not guilty to sharing classified info on foreign dating site

OMAHA, Neb.– A former Air Force employee and retired Army lieutenant colonel pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he shared classified information about Russia’s war with Ukraine on a foreign dating site.

David Franklin Slater was in court in Omaha on Tuesday afternoon – three days after the 63-year-old was arrested. Slater, whose gray hair was cropped short, briefly answered questions from Magistrate Judge Michael Nelson during the first hearing.

The federal public defender who represented Slater at the hearing did not comment on the case, but Nelson instructed Slater to hire his own attorney after reviewing the financial information, including details of several rental properties Slater owns in Nebraska, together with real estate in Germany.

The indictment against Slater provides examples of the messages he responded to in early 2022 from an unindicted co-conspirator claiming to be a woman living in Ukraine.

Some of the questions researchers found in emails and on the dating site’s online messaging platform included: “Dear, what is shown on the screens in the special room? It’s very interesting.” Another was: “Dave, I hope that NATO will prepare a very unpleasant ‘surprise’ for Putin tomorrow! Do you want to tell me?”

The messages cited by prosecutors in the indictment show that Slater shared information: “By the way, you were the first to tell me that NATO members travel by train and only now (evening) was this announced on our news. You are my secret informant love! How were your meetings? Successfully?”

Prosecutors said Slater shared information about military targets on March 28, 2022, and also provided details about Russian military capabilities on April 13, 2022.

The indictment alleges that between February and April 2022, Slater shared classified information while attending briefings on the war at the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. He worked there from August 2021 to April 2022 after retiring from the Army at the end of 2020.

Judge Nelson confirmed during the hearing that Slater no longer has access to classified information, but prosecutors did not share details about why his employment ended.

Nelson agreed to release Slater on Wednesday on the condition that he surrender his passport and submit to GPS monitoring and restrictions to remain in Nebraska. He is also only allowed to use a phone connected to the Internet, as long as authorities can track his activities on it.