Navy Officer Charged with Espionage by Military Court at Norfolk

Naval Station Norfolk, Va. (Stocktrek Images)
Naval Station Norfolk, Va. (Stocktrek Images)

NORFOLK, Va. -- A US Navy officer assigned to a patrol and reconnaissance group has been charged in military court with two counts of espionage, punishable by the death penalty under certain conditions.

The lieutenant commander is being held at the brig in Chesapeake and appeared at the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing at Norfolk Naval Station on Friday, according to the Navy. The officer's identity has not been released, and charge sheets detailing his alleged crimes were heavily redacted.

The charge sheets say the officer communicated secret information "relating to the national defense to representatives of a foreign government." The documents do not specify what information was provided, when it was provided or to which nation it was provided.

The officer belongs to a unit that provides airborne anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations from planes such as the P-8A Poseidon, P-3C Orion and unmanned MQ-4C Triton. The command is headquartered at Hampton Roads Naval Support Activity in Norfolk, although it's not clear whether he was stationed there.

The Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force is organized into three air wings at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The officer also is charged with three counts of attempted espionage, three counts of making false official statements, five counts of communicating defense information, prostitution-patronizing, adultery and multiple violations of a lawful general order and failure to obey a lawful order.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the officer has entered a plea in the case.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a service member is eligible for the death penalty for espionage if found "guilty of an offense that directly concerns nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large scale attack, war plans, communications intelligence or cryptographic information, or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy."

The charge sheets say the officer wrongfully transported classified material, failed to properly store classified material and failed to report the compromise of information classified as secret. The officer also failed to report foreign contacts, according to the charge sheets.

The charges accuse the officer of failing to sign a record that included foreign travel and providing a false address for when he was on leave, "rather than the actual foreign destination."

The information the officer provided was such that he had reason to believe it "could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation."

It wasn't clear when a ruling will be made on whether the case will proceed.

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