Former U.S. Army intelligence officer, Joseph Daniel Schmidt, has been charged with attempting to provide classified defense information to the Chinese security services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schmidt was arrested at San Francisco International Airport upon his arrival from Hong Kong, where he had been living since March 2020. A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted him on charges of retention and attempted delivery of national defense information.
Schmidt, a former sergeant, served in the Army for five years and had access to secret and top-secret defense information. After leaving active duty in January 2020, he traveled to Istanbul and sent an email to the Chinese consulate expressing his desire to move to China and share information he acquired during his career. He also drafted a Word document titled “Important Information to Share with Chinese Government,” which contained classified information related to national defense.
Upon returning to the U.S. from Turkey, Schmidt left for Hong Kong, where he resided. Over the following months, he emailed two state-owned enterprises in China, offering to provide an encryption key for accessing the Army’s classified information network. He suggested that China could reverse-engineer the key to gain access to the network, enhancing their intelligence capabilities.
The FBI declaration did not disclose any response from the state-owned enterprises or China’s security services. Schmidt was also attempting to obtain legal immigration status in Hong Kong.
If convicted, Schmidt could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.