Former U.S. Ambassador and National Security Council Official Charged with Secretly Acting as an Agent of the Cuban Government
A former U.S. Army Sergeant whose last duty post was Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in western Washington was arrested today on an indictment charging him with two federal felonies: attempt to deliver national defense information and retention of national defense information. Joseph Daniel Schmidt, 29, will appear in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California later today and will be brought to the Western District of Washington for further court proceedings.
“Individuals entrusted with national defense information have a continuing duty to protect that information beyond their government service and certainly beyond our borders,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “The National Security Division is committed to identifying and holding accountable those who violate that duty.”
“Joseph Daniel Schmidt was once a trusted guardian of our nation’s secrets and swore an oath to defend and protect U.S. national security,” said Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “As alleged by the government, Schmidt betrayed his promise and potentially placed our nation at risk in his attempts to pass national defense information to Chinese security services. The FBI and our partners remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the American people and U.S. national security."
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman for the Western District of Washington. “I commend the FBI for their diligent work to end his alleged efforts to betray our country.”
According to records filed in the case, Schmidt was an active-duty soldier from January 2015 to January 2020. His primary assignment was at JBLM in the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion. In his role, Schmidt had access to SECRET and TOP SECRET information. After his separation from the military, Schmidt allegedly reached out to the Chinese Consulate in Turkey and later, the Chinese security services via email offering information about national defense information.
In March 2020, Schmidt traveled to Hong Kong and allegedly continued his efforts to provide Chinese intelligence with classified information he obtained from his military service. He allegedly retained a device that allows for access to secure military computer networks and offered the device to Chinese authorities to assist them in efforts to gain access to such networks.
Schmidt remained in China, primarily Hong Kong, until this week when he scheduled to fly to San Francisco. He was arrested at the airport.
Attempt to deliver national defense information and retention of national defense information are both punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI is investigating the case, with valuable assistance provided by the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Command.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg for the Western District of Washington and Deputy Chief Matthew J. McKenzie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.