The Department of Defense logo is seen ahead of a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on August 15, 2023.
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Joseph Daniel Schmidt, 29, was taken into custody at a San Francisco airport after he arrived there from China, the DOJ said.
Schmidt allegedly initiated efforts to provide Chinese intelligence with U.S. defense information after separating from the military in January 2020, the department said.
He left the U.S. for Hong Kong in March 2020 and stayed there until this week, to continue those efforts, according to the DOJ.
Schmidt faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the two felony counts he faces in an indictment in Seattle federal court, which include attempt to deliver national defense information and retention of such information.
He was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco later. He will be brought to Seattle for further court, according to the DOJ.
Schmidt’s last duty post was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
He was part of the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, where he had access to information classified “Secret” and “Top Secret,” the DOJ said.
After leaving his service, Schmidt retained a device to allow access to secure military networks and offered it to Chinese authorities, according to the department.
He is also accused of reaching out to both the Chinese Consulate in Turkey and the Chinese security services via email to offer the information.
“Individuals entrusted with national defense information have a continuing duty to protect that information beyond their government service and certainly beyond our borders,” said Matthew Olsen, assistant Attorney General for National Security, in a statement.
Tessa Gorman, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said Schmidt broke his military oath “to defend our country and the Constitution,” Gorman said.
“In that context, the alleged actions of this former military member are shocking — not only attempting to provide national defense information but also information that would assist a foreign adversary to gain access to Department of Defense secure computer networks,” the prosecutor said.