The Department of Justice (DOJ) arrested and charged a 29-year-old Army veteran Friday with attempting to spill defense secrets to China, the agency announced.
Former Sgt. Joseph Daniel Schmidt was last posted to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state with the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, giving him access highly classified defense information, according to an indictment. After leaving the Army in January of 2020, he allegedly attempted to contact the Chinese government through various means and offered to share secret military information.
“My name is Joe Schmidt. I am a United States citizen looking to move to China. I currently reside in Istanbul, and am trying to set up an appointment at the consulate in Istanbul,” Schmidt allegedly wrote in an email to the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I also am trying to share information I learned during my career as an interrogator with the Chinese government,” he wrote.
He also allegedly created a word document entitled “Important Information to Share with Chinese Government” that contains a trove of information the Army considers highly sensitive, according to the indictment.
Schmidt allegedly emailed the Chinese consulate in Turkey and Chinese security services in attempt to contact Beijing, the indictment shows. Then, in March of that same year, Schmidt allegedly traveled to Hong Kong and continued efforts to get in touch with Chinese authorities.
He allegedly stole a device from the military that provided secure access to military computer networks and offered to hand the device over to China as well, the indictment alleges.
While in the Army, Schmidt allegedly developed human intelligence sources — spies — and focused primarily on Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility, which includes China, according to the indictment.
He allegedly traveled to China in a personal capacity in 2017 and expressed a desire to do so “every New Year to learn about Chinese culture,” the indictment stated, citing Schmidt’s emails.
In February 2020, while staying in Turkey, Schmidt allegedly conducted internet searches related to defecting from the U.S. and countries that do not have extradition treaties with the U.S., the indictment states. Search terms included “soldier defect” and “can you be extradited for treason” as well as phrases involving the consulates of Iran, Turkey, Russia, Pakistan and China.
Later that year during a trip to Beijing form Hong Kong, Schmidt allegedly conducted internet searches related to intelligence and espionage. A document created during this time, titled “High Level Secrets,” with an offer to share guarded military secrets with China’s Ministry of State Security and train Chinese intelligence officers on American methods.
“If you read this document, please make sure that the State Security Bureau of People’s Republic of China [MSS] receives it. The content is a high-level secret of U.S. intelligence and can help the Chinese people,” the document began.
Schmidt could not be immediately reached for comment.
Micaela Burrow on October 6, 2023