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Joseph Schmidt, a retired US Army sergeant, has been apprehended on charges of attempting to supply classified information to China's intelligence agency. Schmidt's arrest took place at

San Francisco International Airport shortly after his arrival from Hong Kong.

According to Washington state federal prosecutor Tessa Gorman, Schmidt's actions amounted to "efforts to betray our country" and were deemed "shocking."

Joseph Schmidt, 29, served as an active-duty soldier from 2015 to 2020, primarily stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in western Washington. During this period, he worked in intelligence, gaining access to Top Secret documents, the highest level of classified information within the US government.

Allegedly, Schmidt conducted numerous online searches and authored documents outlining his intentions to divulge US national security secrets to China. Court documents suggest that he explored avenues for defection to China and offered his services as an "interrogator" to the Chinese consulate in Turkey and to China's intelligence service.

In one email to the Istanbul consulate, Schmidt reportedly wrote, "I have a current top-secret clearance, and would like to talk to someone from the Government to share this information with you if that is possible."

Prosecutors claim that Schmidt created a Microsoft Word document titled "high level secrets." While the title of the 23-page document was in Chinese, the majority of its content was in English. Another document authored by Schmidt was labeled "important information to share with Chinese government."

Investigators also noted Schmidt's visits to websites related to espionage and intelligence topics, including those discussing the activities and recruitment methods of actual spies.

After completing his military service, Schmidt resided in Turkey for approximately one month before relocating to China. He returned to the United States only when he arrived in San Francisco on a flight from Hong Kong.

Tessa Gorman, the acting US attorney for the Western District of Washington, emphasized the significance of the oath taken by military personnel to defend their country and its Constitution. She characterized Schmidt's alleged actions as "shocking," as they involved not only attempting to disclose national defense information but also providing information that could assist a foreign adversary in accessing secure Department of Defense computer networks.

Schmidt faces charges of attempting to deliver national defense information and retention of national defense information. If convicted, he could potentially face decades in prison. As of now, it remains uncertain whether he has retained legal representation to comment on his behalf.

This arrest follows the apprehension of two active-duty members of the US Navy, who were arrested two months ago for espionage on behalf of China in southern California. Both individuals allegedly received substantial payments in exchange for providing blueprints, technical manuals, and diagrams related to ships and radar systems. Photo by 維基小霸王, Wikimedia commons.