U.S. Sailor to Face Court-Martial on Espionage Charges

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A sailor accused of taking a Navy laptop loaded with classified information and peddling its contents to a foreign government will face a court-martial, the Navy said Friday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, of Salem, Ore., will face six charges — including three counts of espionage — that were approved by Adm. John B. Nathman, commander of the U.S. Navy's Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk.

The espionage charges carry a maximum punishment of death, but the Navy will not seek a capital sentence, Navy spokesman Capt. James Taylor said. Weinmann, a fire control technician previously assigned to the USS Albuquerque based at New London, Conn., faces up to life in prison if convicted.

A trial date has not been set.

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The Navy has said Weinmann, who is being held at the brig at Norfolk Naval Air Station, gave classified information related to national defense to an undisclosed foreign government before he destroyed the computer.

During a preliminary hearing in July, the Navy disclosed that Weinmann was picked up at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on March 26 after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents found the 21-year-old with $4,000 cash, three CD-ROMs, an external computer storage device and memory cards for storing digital images.

According to testimony, Weinmann was found carrying a piece of paper with the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of two individuals, as well as a notebook with handwritten contents that aroused suspicion.

The Navy said Weinmann made a visit to Bahrain in March 2005 in an "attempt to communicate, deliver or transmit" the classified information to "a representative, officer, agent or employee of a foreign government."

Weinmann later deserted his submarine for more than eight months to travel to Austria and Mexico to "communicate, deliver or transmit" the information to a foreign government, the Navy said.

The Navy has not disclosed which government or governments Weinmann is charged with spying for, what he was asking for in exchange for the information, or how he obtained the computer.

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.

Lt. Cmdr. Karen Somers, one of Weinmann's attorneys, acknowledged the charges in a statement and said she and her co-counsel were preparing for trial.

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