Ten Days after David Slater Told His Honeypot American Officials Were Traveling to Kyiv, Lloyd Austin and Tony Blinken Arrived

I’ve been puzzling over how the government discovered that retired Lieutenant Colonel David Franklin Slater was leaking classified information to a honeypot he met on an online dating site.

But it seems likely that it arose from a counter-reaction to information he leaked about a trip of two officials to Ukraine.

On April 13, 2022, according to the indictment, Slater shared information about Russian capabilities in Ukraine.

[O]n or about April 13, 2022, DAVID FRANKLIN SLATER transmitted classified NDI regarding Russian military capabilities relating to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


On or about April 13, 2022, in the District of Nebraska and elsewhere, the defendant, DAVID FRANKLIN SLATER, having authorized possession of, access to, and control over information relating to the national defense, willfully communicated, delivered, and transmitted that information to a person not entitled to receive it with reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation: to wit, DAVID FRANKLIN SLATER transmitted SECRET information regarding ·Russia’s war against Ukraine to Co-Conspirator 1.

The next day, his honeypot thanked him for advance notice of two officials who were traveling to Kyiv.

On or about April 14, “My sweet Dave, thanks for the valuable information, it’s great that two officials from the USA are going to Kyiv.”

Ten days later, Tony Blinken and Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Michael Nelson granted the government’s request to treat this as a complex case (possibly because it’ll require CIPA). With the government’s consent, Slater was given pretrial release.

36 replies
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  2. Rugger_9 says:

    I don’t get the pretrial release because this is an espionage case even if it’s not charged yet. Movement of senior staff is always NDI-worthy. Perhaps he’s been put ‘in hack’ (a sort of unofficial restricted status for officers on ships) which would be tolerable for now. It’s also not been done before AFAIK (though I’m willing to be corrected here). Also, where is the honeypot asset? That person might be worth swapping back to the Russians. Lower level service members have been hammered a lot harder.

    I also think that LTC Slater is in for a GCM to set terms for his dismissal. We couldn’t get Flynn that way because he’d already retired out of the army, but Slater may still have been under orders when he did it. That GCM might tell us if Slater is a burrower, and a ‘dismissal’ works like a dishonorable discharge for veteran’s benefits. Slater knew better than to do this in any case.

    A last thought is that a Petraeus correlation would apply here. AFAIK, only a US person was involved in his indiscretions unlike this case.

    • Discontinued Barbie says:

      Is it really a honey pot if the person knows the info is being used for other means. Based on the response of the “honey pot” it seems like he knows the information is just not bedroom talk.

      Is this particular man so motivated by sex he would forego his lifetime VA benefits? Or was there a large monetary payout guaranteed as well, and the sex was just the icing on the deal.

      I don’t think I have read enough briefs to understand the motivation behind telling a lover specific details like this.

    • David Brooks says:

      As noted in the press release, he is retired from the service and now a civilian employee at USSTRATCOM.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Espionage HAS been charged: both 793(d) and (g).

    Also, there’s no reason to believe the honeypot is in the US.

    • Critter7 says:

      To emphasize Dr. Marcy’s 2nd point: The DOJ press release linked by the post says the info exchange took place on a “foreign online dating platform”.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Even a corrupt deputy sheriff in an Alaskan village during the polar night could figure that out. /s

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Mea culpa. The police captain in Night Country, who was hoodwinked by a Russian “online dating service,” before having a late-night Oedipal encounter.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        Noted, but that makes Slater’s conduct even more damning and pretrial release even more inexcusable. He’d better be restricted under constant surveillance at least (and I do mean constant).

        Sorry I missed the espionage filing EW.

        • Bill B(Not Barr) says:

          If he is retired, he is not under military orders and confinement to base sounds unlikely.

  4. Thomas Lee says:

    What I do not get – Slater was allowed to walk free just now. WHY is he no behind bars?

    • Terry Karney says:

      Because he has no passport.

      Is he a flight risk? Probably not. He’s not going to get the Kim Philby treatment (should he find a way to get to Moscow) and, hard as it may be to believe, it seems unlikely he was engaged in active spying. He was just absurdly easy to talking. He didn’t think (at least not with his brain) about who was at the other end of the conversation and wanted to believe they were “good people” who were interested in things related to his job; and had a deep (and non-hostile) interest in Ukraine.

      It’s depressing how much intel is collected from simple elicitation; with no need to get the provider “on-side”.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        Excellent way to put it — as an opening statement for his defense atty. But it nonetheless raises the question of why the honeypot called the tip “valuable information,” if it was just sex-patter? Maybe to Slater that was like complementing him on the size of his dick? “Ooooh! You’re making me wet with all those transcription algorithms, Davey boy!”

        Yes, we should feel sorry for the NatSec lonely hearts club member; Blinken and Austin weren’t assassinated, after all, and ankle bracelets are sexy anyhow (especially since they can be a bit dangerous as well!):

      • Theodora30 says:

        From what I have read about Philby he was deeply disappointed that he was not treated very well when he got to Russia. He was no longer of any use to them so he was a nonentity. No lavish lifestyle, either.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s fundamental. You’re innocent until proven guilty. If you’re not a credible flight risk or an imminent physical threat to yourself or others, you’re out on bail or your own recognizance. If there are reasonable, reliable substitutes for jail, such as a gps monitor, use those instead of jail.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Maybe he’s got a U.S. higher- up who’s his controller and the Feds are playing “Let’s make a deal.” (There are still plenty of Trumpists in the government.)

  5. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Was the entire relationship online? Or just the original meeting? I’m having visions of the “honeypot” turning out to be a Maria Butina-esque photo fronting for some former IRA operative named Sergei.

    We live in a world where Only Fans exists, after all.

  6. TimothyB says:

    Super interesting, thanks!

    The press release and charging document are coy about what NDI he allegedly gave, presumably because of sensible security concerns. There is a far longer list of requests from the honeypot, which help establish Slater was knowingly violating, since many of them request specific very damaging stuff. If he answered any of those with the relevant NDI, that, too, could have led to the tip off. Or it could have been an unlisted request/response.

    There is a genre of “foreign dating sites” with women “looking for older men,” and a subgenre of Ukrainian women. I scrubbed these out of a list of websites I was using for statistical analysis, along with myriad other sketchy sites. These are not as ucky as some other sketch-fests, but many are pretty transparently scams. Scammer can be the site itself, or the “women.”

    My guess? The honeypot is significantly less human, and/or significantly less female, and about as French, as Mata Hari.

    • emptywheel says:

      Prosecutors sometimes pick what to charge balancing what will LOOK like NDI to a juror and what the IC is willing to declassify.

  7. soundgood2 says:

    Just reading the correspondence quoted in the indictment. Are men really that dumb? I would bet he is not even communicating with a woman! Good Lord, “you are my secret agent!” And this guy had a top secret security clearance. I don’t think it is DEI or women in the military that is the problem here…

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        At our house we refer to that as the ‘Southern brain’, which makes it applicable in a variety of usages.

    • originalK says:

      When I read the indictment I got the impression that he may have been caught up in a more systematic psychological process (like a Skinner Box) where the rewards might have been “worth” the asks to start (with rewards closer to what Ginevra DiBenci describes). And then the asks (level of info) increase and the rewards can decrease to the point you’ve noted. I also.thimk it’s worth mentioning the pro-Ukraine slant (“Beloved Dave, do NATO and Biden have a secret plan to help us?”) of some of the asks. As a dupe he has nowhere to flee to really.

    • Discontinued Barbie says:

      This is the part I can’t get over. This seems like the dumbest honey pot ever. It can’t be this easy for a sexy AI chatbox to get Intel!

  8. David Brooks says:

    It’s a reasonable assumption that he was referring to Austin and Blinken, but the indictment doesn’t say that, and there is that 10-day gap. They could be visits from people we aren’t supposed to know about. Still, I concede that Occam would suggest you are right.

  9. Harry Eagar says:

    Getting a top secret clearance is not as hard as you might think, or expect. I know people who have them who I would not trust to carry out the garbage.

    Most of the important things are known to our adversaries anyway. When the attacks on China were kept secret, it was not to keep the Chinese from finding out.

    In “Russia’s Cold War,” Jonathan Haslam amusingly relates that when the GRU lost all its assets in the high level of the government in Tehran, that was a big break for them. The Soviet agents went into the bazaars. Consequently, when the shah was overthrown, the Russians were clued in. The Americans had never a clue.

    • wrog____ says:

      I’m reminded of the friend who, when applying for a Livermore job + security clearance circa 1991, they called his supervisor and asked, “Does he associate with foreign nationals?”; supervisor, without missing a beat, answered, “No.” Security clearance eventually came through without a hitch.

      The investigator was evidently not paying attention to the area code of the number he was calling, and this was back in the days when those still correlated pretty well with geography,

      …. in this case, British Columbia, the supervisor was faculty at UBC, and was, himself, along with pretty much 95% of the rest of the department, foreign national. For icing on the cake, other members of the research group included a (recently retired) KGB colonel, and at least one one PRC national….

      … so, yeah, they don’t always put a whole lot of work into checking things.

  10. Tech Support says:

    Can someone help enlighten me on what we actually mean by honeypot here? Is this just a straightforward sexual innuendo?

    In an InfoSec context, a honeypot is a decoy system used to lure attackers into wasting their energy (and revealing their activities). If we applied that here, it would suggest that US counter-intelligence suspected that the dating service was a vehicle for leaking classified info and the person Slater was leaking to was CI the entire time.

    • dar_5678 says:

      The infosec definition of honeypot is derived from the older spook definition.

      The common meaning is an attractive decoy.

      In spycraft in the old days, they were typically young women trained to elicit secrets from their suitors. Sex was involved.

      In modern online spycraft, they don’t need to be women.

      Applied here, I think it means that the “Ukrainian woman” was a honeypot and US IC may or may not have known about her existence before they suspected a leak and suspected this dude of being responsible. But when they followed his activities, they found “her”.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Trump ordered to pay $382,000 after losing UK lawsuit over [Christopher] Steele dossier.”

    English Judge orders Donald Trump to pay Christopher Steele’s company’s legal fees. Another good reason neither E. Jean Carroll nor Letitia James should take a dime less than their full damages award, nor should the courts permit Trump to appeal either case without paying the full appeals bonds or cash equivalent.

    The bonds are meant to keep the winner whole during the appeals process – and to dissuade litigants from appealing simply to delay paying the winner. By the time Trump’s appeals are over, who knows how many other claims there will be on Trump’s diminishing assets.


  12. Jim Brown_CHANGE-REQD says:

    Some probably think they know all there is to know about Trump. They probably think the Mueller report exonerated him. Well, no matter what they think they know, do they know about Trump’s real Russian connections from the seventies/eighties? They had best read a fascinating fact based report primarily about Boris Johnson and several other British Prime Ministers in which Trump is mentioned en passant.

    The report, unlike the dirty dossier produced by Christopher Steele (ex MI6), is fact based and much of it has been accepted as fact by several British Prime Ministers. Rest assured, if you read this article your understanding of world politics will never be the same again. See the news for TheBurlingtonFiles website on July 21, 2021, and also read the brief articles referred to therein.

    • Rayne says:

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