A former U.S. sergeant has been charged by the Justice Department for attempting to transmit classified information to China.
Joseph Daniel Schmidt, 29, was apprehended on Friday and faces charges of retaining national defense information and attempting to transmit national defense information. He is accused of trying to share defense-related data with China via email following his departure from the military.
Schmidt, who served in the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion from 2015 to 2020, had access to classified and top-secret information as part of his job. Following his military service, he is accused of sending emails to the Chinese consulate in Turkey, offering them information about U.S. defense.
According to court records, Schmidt purportedly introduced himself in the email, stating that he possessed a top-secret U.S. government security clearance and expertise in surveillance detection and spy operations. Allegedly, he offered to share his knowledge with Chinese authorities and requested an in-person meeting.
Investigators reportedly recovered a Word document from Schmidt’s Apple iCloud account, titled “Important Information to Share with the Chinese Government,” which he allegedly wrote two days after the initial email. The U.S. Army later determined that this document contained sensitive material.
Former U.S. Army Sergeant, Joseph Daniel Schmidt, whose last duty post was Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in western Washington was arrested today on an indictment charging him w trying to pass national defense info to China pic.twitter.com/TWykheCcof
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) October 6, 2023
Prosecutors allege that Schmidt traveled to Hong Kong shortly after his military service ended in 2020. During this visit, they suspect he retained a device that granted him access to U.S. military networks and subsequently provided it to Chinese authorities. Schmidt was apprehended during his attempt to board a flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman of the Western District of Washington stated that Schmidt’s actions constituted alleged attempts to “betray our nation.”
Gorman said, “Members of our military take a sworn oath to defend our country and the Constitution. 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. I commend the FBI for their diligent work to end his alleged efforts to betray our country.”
The 29-year-old from Washington State could potentially receive up to 10 years in prison for each count and a $250,000 fine if convicted. The U.S. Army Counterintelligence Command, in conjunction with the FBI, is conducting the investigation.