Former US Army Sergeant Accused of Espionage for China

A former US Army sergeant who is believed to have spent several years residing in China was apprehended last Friday.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Former US Army Sergeant Accused of Espionage for China
© Getty Images News/U.S. Air Force

A former US Army sergeant who is believed to have spent several years residing in China was apprehended last Friday. Joseph Daniel Schmidt faces grave charges of possessing national defense information and allegedly attempting to share it with the Chinese government.

A Highly Classified Background

Schmidt's background, as described in court documents, reveals his pivotal role in the US Army. Serving from 2015 to 2020, he led a Human Intelligence squad, playing a crucial part in "collection operations and the production of intelligence reporting, analysis, and the dissemination of intelligence products." This role endowed Schmidt with not only classified intelligence access but also a top-secret security clearance.

The Justice Department has confirmed that Schmidt's initial appearance is slated for a California federal court this coming Friday. On the horizon, the ramifications for Schmidt, if found guilty, are severe. The two charges, attempting to disseminate national defense information and retaining such information, each come with a potential 10-year prison sentence.

Interestingly, public records as of now do not indicate any legal representation for Schmidt.

Direct Outreach to the Chinese Government

Further deepening the intrigue, court papers indicate that Schmidt had proactively reached out to the Chinese government in 2020.

He reportedly sent an email to the Chinese Consulates' public email address in Turkey, expressing his desire to relocate to China and "share information I learned during my career as an interrogator with the Chinese government." His alleged email contained alarming revelations, including his claim of possessing a "current top secret clearance." Schmidt boldly indicated his expertise in "training in interrogation, running sources as a spy handler, surveillance detection, and other advanced psychological operation strategies." Federal agents discovered that Schmidt later crafted a document with the suggestive title, "Important Information to Share with Chinese Government." The content, as determined by the US Army, contained classified national defense details.

Further findings indicate that during his time in China, Schmidt didn't stop at that one document. He is believed to have produced additional materials outlining US Army intelligence operations. This trove encompassed training, intelligence collection, interrogation techniques, and even included a hand-drawn diagram of an intricate Army computer network.

This case, certainly drawing international attention, underscores the persistent challenge of espionage and the potentially perilous intersections of loyalty and opportunity.

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