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Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen Delivers Remarks on U.S. Navy Servicemembers Arrested for Transmitting Military Information to the People’s Republic of China


San Diego, CA
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Randy. Good morning.

I am Matt Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice.

Today, we are announcing charges in the Central and Southern Districts of California against two active-duty members of the U.S. Navy. Through the alleged crimes committed by these defendants, sensitive military information ended up in the hands of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

U.S. Attorney Estrada and U.S. Attorney Grossman will discuss these cases in more detail in a minute.

The charges demonstrate the PRC’s determination to obtain information that is critical to our national defense by any means, so it could be used to its advantage. The alleged conduct also represents a violation of the obligation of members of our military to defend this country, safeguard its secrets and to protect their fellow service members.

In the first case out of the Central District, the defendant, a petty officer who served as a construction electrician, is charged with conspiring with a PRC intelligence officer to collect and transmit sensitive U.S. military information about Navy operations. The defendant allegedly accepted bribes and gave a PRC intelligence officer photographs and videos of military exercise plans, operational orders and electrical systems at a naval installation.

In the second case out of the Southern District, the defendant faces charges for espionage and violating our export control laws – for collecting and transmitting sensitive national defense information at the direction of a PRC intelligence officer. As tasked by the intelligence officer, the defendant allegedly transmitted, or attempted to transmit, more than 50 manuals and other documents containing technical and mechanical data about naval amphibious assault ships. Several of these materials were allegedly marked with export control warnings and detailed sensitive information about the power structure, weapons systems and damage controls aboard the ships.

These individuals stand accused of violating rules that protect the United States and ensure that those who are entrusted with our national security do not abuse their positions for any reason, including for personal profit.

The National Security Division – my division – working with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country has been relentless in pursuing and holding accountable those who commit crimes to advance the interests of hostile nation states. And as I’ve said before and today’s charges reflect, China among all such nations, stands apart in terms of the threat that its government poses to the United States. China is unrivaled in the audacity and range of its malign efforts to subvert our laws.

Make no mistake, as a department, we will continue to use every legal tool in our arsenal to counter that threat and to deter the PRC and those who aid it in violating the rule of law and threatening our national security.

I want to commend the outstanding work of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Field Offices in Los Angeles and San Diego. The National Security Division works with these offices – they are on the front lines — to combat efforts by the PRC to engage in espionage and other activities that threaten our national security. These offices work closely with the Navy, and other partners across the U.S. government to identify and respond to such threats and to bring perpetrators to justice. 

I’ll note that we are in San Diego, a city with especially deep and longstanding ties to the United States Navy. The Navy plays an integral role in defending our country from all manner of threats and protecting U.S. values and interests around the world, including in the Pacific region. Every day, the men and women of the Navy carry out their critical mission while upholding their duty to protect our interests.

I am grateful to NCIS for its critical partnership in these cases. The Department of Justice is proud to work shoulder to shoulder with Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), FBI and our many military and law enforcement partners, in responding to threats to this country’s most important institutions, whether those threats come from within or without.

We stand ready to hold accountable those who would betray the public trust and violate the commitments they have made to this country.

I will now turn it over to U.S. Attorney Estrada.

National Security
Updated August 3, 2023