DoJ: Ex-soldier tried to pass secrets to China after seeking a 'subreddit about spy stuff'

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A erstwhile US Army Sergeant pinch Top Secret US subject clearance created a Word archive entitled "Important Information to Share pinch Chinese Government," according to an FBI agent's sworn declaration.

Joseph Daniel Schmidt, aged 29, was arrested connected Friday successful San Francisco aft disembarking a formation from Hong Kong, officials said. He was to look successful a US District Court for nan Northern District of California connected Friday day and would beryllium brought to nan Western District of Washington for further tribunal proceedings, nan Department of Justice said successful a statement.

The DoJ said nan man's past work station was successful occidental Washington, astatine Joint Base Lewis-McChord – a awesome Army installation – and he was charged pinch 2 national felonies: attempting to present nationalist defense information, and retention of nationalist defense information.

The DoJ said that during progressive duty, Schmidt was portion of nan Human Intelligence ("HUMINT") squad, first moving arsenic an intelligence collector and yet becoming a squad leader of different HUMINT collectors. His activity fell nether nan Indo-Pacific Command, nan DoD's geographic combatant portion that covers nan Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean region, including China. It noted he had been trained successful "counterintelligence collections"; "Human Intelligence Operation Management"; and "Human Intelligence Tradecraft"; and besides attended nan department's Defense Language Institute Chinese-Mandarin training.

The DoJ said Schmidt retired from progressive work successful January 2020, walking to China, past backmost to nan US, past to Istanbul successful February 2020, earlier returning to nan US again, and past going backmost to China successful March 2020.

The FBI's declaration doc contains galore allegations astir a level of bumbling that hardly seems credible, including an accusation that Schmidt offered to stock Top Secret info via a Gmail reside linked to his name. It besides claims he sent nan first email it cites successful nan archive speculatively, while visiting Turkey, seemingly deciding nan publically listed email reside for nan Chinese Consulate successful Istanbul would do, wherever nan archive accuses him of offering to stock "information I learned during my career."

Also while successful Turkey, an FBI supplier declaration states, Schmidt utilized Google to investigation which countries don't person extradition treaties pinch nan United States earlier allegedly entering respective different hunt queries that had The Reg staffers looking complete our ain to ascertain really humiliating they mightiness beryllium successful a business wherever they were someway made publically available.

Among nan alleged searches elaborate successful nan tribunal filing were:

  • "soldier defect"
  • "chinese embassy"
  • "Chinese Consulate-General successful Istanbul (Turkey)"
  • "chinese.consulate number doesn't spell through"
  • "countries that dont extradite"
  • "can you beryllium extradited for treason"
  • "afghanistan visa"
  • "what is china's intelligence agency"
  • "subreddit spying" – aft which Schmidt was said to person paid a sojourn to Reddit to peruse a astir quiet station titled "looking_for_a_subreddit_about_spy_stuff."

According to typical supplier Brandon Tower, aft Schmidt near for China, he later sent an email to a Chinese state-owned enterprise. Tower alleged successful his declaration that nan erstwhile worker appeared to person "used Google to behaviour ... investigation ... which identified" nan institution "as being nether nan nonstop power of nan PRC State Council."

The grounds accuses nan ex-Army sergeant of sending nan pursuing email:

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  • South Korea accuses North of Phish and Ships attack
  • US govt IT thief table techie 'leaked apical secrets' to overseas nation
  • Routers person been rooted by Chinese spies, US and Japan warn

According to nan US Army, nan PKI paper is an encryption cardinal for accessing nan Army's classified Secret web and related databases, referred to arsenic nan Secret Internet Protocol Router Network ("SIPRnet").

According to nan filings, Schmidt utilized 4 email addresses, 1 Yahoo!, 1 Outlook address, and 2 Gmail addresses, each attached to nan sanction "Joey Schmidt," "Joe Schmidt," aliases "Joseph Schmidt," and pinch nan 2nd Gmail reside arsenic nan betterment email for nan first. Both Gmail addresses were tied to his iCloud account, claims nan DoJ. Schmidt utilized nan 2nd Gmail relationship to book trips to China while he was connected progressive duty, utilizing individual time off to recreation there, nan DoJ adds.

The FBI claims that successful July 2020, conscionable 2 weeks earlier sending nan email, he was told by Hong Kong migration authorities that he had been "overstaying successful Hong Kong."

Special supplier Tower went connected to declare that "since his presence successful Hong Kong successful early March 2020," Schmidt had been trying to find activity successful China and a PRC activity permit/visa truthful he could permanently relocate to China. However, owed to a assortment of factors, including China's policies successful consequence to nan COVID-19 pandemic, Schmidt was having problem obtaining a PRC visa.

"Members of our subject return a sworn oath to take sides our state and nan Constitution. In that discourse nan alleged actions of this erstwhile subject personnel are shocking – not only attempting to supply nationalist defense information, but besides accusation that would assistance a overseas adversary to summation entree to Department of Defense unafraid machine networks," said acting US lawyer Tessa M Gorman for nan Western District of Washington.

You tin publication nan afloat indictment here [PDF] and nan FBI agent's declaration here [PDF]. ®