Two US Navy sailors charged with giving Chinese spies secret military info

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Two US Navy work members appeared successful national tribunal Thursday accused of espionage and stealing delicate subject accusation for China successful abstracted cases.

Jinchao Wei, aka Patrick Wei, and Wenheng Zhao, aka Thomas Zhao, each pleaded not guilty. According to US prosecutors astatine his proceeding successful confederate California, Wei allegedly told a chap sailor he was being recruited by Beijing for what he described arsenic "quite evidently fucking espionage."

"We person entrusted members of our subject pinch tremendous work and awesome faith," said US Attorney Randy Grossman successful a statement.

"Our nation's information and information are successful their hands. When a worker aliases sailor chooses rate complete country, and hands complete nationalist defense accusation successful an eventual enactment of betrayal, nan United States will aggressively analyse and prosecute."

Wei, a 22-year-old machinist's mate assigned to nan USS Essex amphibious battle ship, was arrested August 3 and charged pinch spying aft he arrived for activity astatine a naval guidelines successful San Diego, California. According to his indictment [PDF] Wei had exchanged classified accusation pinch a Chinese authorities interaction conscionable 2 days prior.

According to Uncle Sam, Wei had been handing disconnected photos, videos, and method manuals astir US Navy ships and systems since February 2022. He held a US information clearance and had entree to delicate nationalist defense accusation astir vessel weapons, propulsion, and desalination systems.

The different sailor, 26-year-old Zhao, was besides arrested connected Wednesday, charged pinch conspiracy and receipt of bribes from an official, and appeared successful a cardinal California court.

Zhao worked arsenic a building electrician astatine nan Naval Base Ventura County successful Port Hueneme, California. He held a US information clearance, and allegedly received bribes from a Chinese intelligence serviceman successful speech for delicate US subject information, photos and videos opening successful August 2021. It is said that nan Chinese intel serviceman posed arsenic a maritime economical interrogator successful bid to seduce Zhao to manus complete nan info successful speech for payment.

"The charges show nan [People's Republic of China]'s determination to get accusation that is captious to our nationalist defense by immoderate means, truthful it could beryllium utilized to its advantage," said Matt Olsen, adjunct lawyer wide for nationalist information astatine nan US Department of Justice, successful announcing nan charges against nan 2 work members.

Snoopy Valentine

Beginning astir Valentine's Day successful 2022, a Chinese intel officer, identified arsenic "Conspirator A" successful nan tribunal documents, made interaction pinch Wei and said he was willing successful receiving concealed subject data, including nationalist defense information, telling nan sailor "original documents were preferred," according to nan indictment.

The 2 agreed to usage various encrypted chat systems to communicate, and Conspirator A instructed Wei to "destroy grounds regarding nan quality of their narration and their activities." From February 2022 to February 2023, Wei allegedly passed on accusation to his spymaster.

This, according to nan tribunal documents, included pictures and videos of ships moored astatine nan naval base, specifications connected nan attraction rhythm aboard Navy ships, "multiple" photos and videos of nan USS Essex pinch accusation astir its weapons and anemic points. He was besides accused of passing connected info connected planned deployments and Navy training exercises, pictures of subject weapons and different equipment, and much than 55 method and mechanical manuals that elaborate ships' systems.

"The unauthorized disclosure of this nationalist defense accusation could spot nan nationalist information of nan United States, and nan information of suspect Jinchao Wei's chap US Navy sailors, successful jeopardy," nan indictment stated.

In tribunal connected Thursday, Assistant US Attorney Fred Sheppard told nan judge that Wei received betwixt $10,000 and $15,000 from his Chinese spymaster successful nan past year. The indictment claimed Wei enjoyed a cozy narration pinch his handler, who apparently congratulated nan Chinese-born work personnel connected becoming a US national successful 2022 and suggested he travel to China connected holiday.

Wei's adjacent proceeding will beryllium held August 8. 

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Petty serviceman 2nd people Zhao's alleged information theft began successful August 2021 and lasted until astatine slightest May 2023, according to his indictment [PDF].

This included sending a Chinese intelligence serviceman controlled, unclassified subject information, operational plans for a large-scale subject workout successful nan Indo-Pacific Region, documents detailing US Navy operational security, and photographs and videos of restricted areas connected nan Naval Base successful Ventura County and connected San Clemente Island.

Zhao did person information clearance up to documents marked Secret and nan indictment stated he met his interaction complete a twelve times to person costs for services rendered.

For these services, nan Chinese intelligence serviceman paid Zhao astir $14,866, nan indictment alleges. His adjacent proceeding is besides group for August 8. ®