Former Soldier Indicted For Attempting To Pass Secrets

A former Army sergeant was indicted Friday for allegedly betraying his country by attempting to pass classified information to China.

Joseph Daniel Schmidt, 29, is charged with retention of national defense information and attempting to transmit national defense information. Prosecutors believe he tried to give information to Communist China through email after he left the service.

Schmidt had access to classified and top-secret material while with the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion from 2015 to 2020. The Department of Justice (DOJ) said his last post was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.

Authorities believe Schmidt emailed the Chinese Consulate in Turkey with an offer to provide U.S. defense information.

According to court records, he introduced himself and listed his experience and access to sensitive details. He reportedly asked for a face-to-face meeting with Beijing officials with an offer to share knowledge with them.

Two days later, he allegedly titled a Word document, “Important Information to Share with the Chinese Government.” This evidence was obtained by investigators from Schmidt’s Apple iCloud account.

Other sensitive material was also found in the iCloud account.

In March of 2020, he allegedly flew to Hong Kong and resumed his efforts to attempt to give Chinese intelligence information he gleaned during his military service.

He stayed in China and mostly Hong Kong until he scheduled a flight last week to San Francisco. Schmidt was arrested by U.S. officials at the airport.

He is accused of retaining a device from his service time that permits the user to access military computer networks. The DOJ in a release said that Schmidt “offered the device to Chinese authorities to assist them in efforts to gain access to such networks.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman with the Western District of Washington said that Schmidt’s actions were to “betray our country” and called his efforts “shocking.”

Gorman added that he “not only attempt[ed] to provide national defense information, but also information that would assist a foreign adversary to gain access to Department of Defense secure computer networks.”

If Schmidt is convicted, he could receive up to 10 years in prison on each charge along with a $250,000 fine.