U.S. Sailor Charged With Espionage

A sailor accused of taking a Navy laptop containing classified information and peddling its contents to foreign governments is being held for possible court-martial, the military Wednesday.

The Navy said that Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann gave the classified information, containing national defense data, to an undisclosed foreign government before he destroyed the computer.

Weinmann, 21, of Salem, Ore., was confined at Norfolk Naval Air Station on six charges, the Navy said in a statement.

The charges include three counts of espionage, including a suspected March 2005 visit to Bahrain, where Weinmann tried to pass along classified information to a foreign government, the Navy said.

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Months later, the Navy said, Weinmann deserted his submarine, the USS Albuquerque, for more than eight months and traveled to Austria and Mexico to "communicate, deliver or transmit" the information.

Weinmann used a mallet in March, near Vienna, to destroy the computer's hard drive, the Navy said.

Naval attorneys for Weinmann, a fire control technician previously assigned to the New London, Conn.-based sub, declined to comment Wednesday.

Ted Brown, U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman, would not comment on which government Weinmann was charged with spying for, what he was seeking in exchange for the information, or how he obtained the computer.

Weinmann was picked up at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport March 26 and transferred to Norfolk, the Navy said.

The Navy also charged Weinmann with failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, making an electronic copy of classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer.

Weinmann's father said FBI and Navy investigators searched the family's house twice.

"In a lot of ways he was very naive, gullible," Rob Weinmann told KGW-TV. "I definitely don't want him to be a scapegoat."

He added that his son had become disillusioned with the Navy by the time he disappeared.

Weinmann could face the death penalty if his fleet commander decides to press for a court-martial.