A U.S. naval officer has been charged with espionage after he was accused of supplying government secrets to Saudi Arabia.
The Navy has accused Lt. Cmdr. Michael Schwartz of passing information to Saudi Arabia’s military from November 1992 to September 1994 while he was assigned to the U.S. Military Training Mission in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said Cmdr. Kevin Wensing, a public relations officer for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, which is handling the investigation.
Schwartz, who is 43 and not Jewish, reputedly mishandled classified information by bringing it home with him, passing military information — in the form of computer diskettes and documents — to a foreign government without authorization and failing to disclose that he had brought the documents home, Wensing said.
Espionage is a crime punishable by a maximum of life in prison, fines and, in some rare cases, death, Wensing said.
An Article 32 hearing, the U.S. Navy’s version of a grand jury hearing, is scheduled for July 21, Wensing said. At the hearing, an officer will review whether there is enough evidence to pursue further administrative action against Schwartz, he said.
Schwartz, a 17-year Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf War, has been assigned to an onshore administrative position at the naval base in Norfolk, Va., until the matter is resolved, Wensing said.
Schwartz’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Julie Tinker, refused to comment on the case.
Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Morin, who is handling the case for the government, could not be reached for comment.
A source close to the case said the Navy discovered the alleged transgressions when one of Schwartz’s fellow officers apparently noticed that some classified material had been passed. Allegedly, the incident was reported it to a supervisor.
There was “no indication” that anyone solicited or paid for the information, said the source, who asked not to be identified.
There was also no indication that others were involved, the source said.
“I can’t speculate on what his motives were. Perhaps he though it was benign information, but according to the statutes, you’re not allowed to pass on information unless” it says that entity can have access, the source said.
Charges filed by the Atlantic Fleet on May 23 describe some of the information — which ran the gamut from “confidential” to “secret” classifications — as military intelligence digests, intelligence advisories and tactical intelligence summaries.
The papers name several documents that changed hands and said the suspect “had reason to believe” that the information could either harm U.S. interests, or further Saudi Arabia’s. Although the charges against Schwartz are serious, the information is not that damaging to U.S. security interests, the source said, calling the bulk of the material “information that’s classified now, but in two months you might see it on CNN.”