— -- A Navy officer assigned to a maritime reconnaissance unit has been charged with espionage and attempted espionage, according to charging documents. The officer was arrested approximately eight months ago, but the details of his case were first made public Friday at a preliminary court hearing that will determine whether the case will proceed to a court martial.
The unidentified officer is currently assigned to Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, a maritime patrol and reconnaissance unit in Norfolk that provides airborne anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using P-8A Poseidon aircraft, P-3 Orion aircraft and MQ-4 unmanned aircraft.
A U.S. official says the lieutenant commander has been in pre-trial confinement since being arrested approximately eight months ago at an airport in the U.S. Pacific Command region while bound for a foreign country.
He is being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI are still investigating details of this case.
An Article 32 hearing held Friday in Norfolk, Virginia will determine if the case should proceed to a court martial. The hearing, vaguely referenced in a Navy court docket, was the first public confirmation of the case and was slated to last a day.
Charge sheets presented at an Article 32 hearing were heavily redacted and did not disclose the identity of the Naval officer nor where the alleged acts of espionage occurred.
According to the charge sheets, the officer has been charged with five counts of espionage and attempted espionage. The documents allege that on "divers occasions" the officer did "with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation, attempt to communicate SECRET information relating to the national defense to a representative of a foreign government."
He was also charged with four counts of a violation of a Lawful General Order by “wrongfully transporting material classified as SECRET." There were also seven counts of violating Article 134 of the UCMJ for communicating defense information "to a person not entitled to receive said information," patronizing a prostitute and adultery. These specifications also note that he signed a leave request with a false address “rather than the actual foreign destination."
“We cannot provide additional information at this time given that the investigation is ongoing,” said Navy spokesman Lt. Commander Tim Hawkins said when asked for further details.
The case has been designated a national security case which is why the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command is the convening authority in the case.
It is unclear when the presiding officer in the case will make a recommendation as to whether the case should move to trial.