US Navy officer jailed for sharing military data with China

US navy officer jailed

US Navy officer jailed for sharing military data with China

A US Navy officer, Wenheng Zhao, has been jailed for more than two years in prison for sharing military data with China. He pled guilty to supplying information to Chinese intelligence in exchange for cash in October.

Wenheng was a petty officer at a military installation in California. A petty officer is a junior and mid-grade non-commissioned officer in the Navy. 

According to US authorities, Wenheng leaked information about military exercises, operational orders, and crucial infrastructure from 2021 to 2023.

The US Justice Department stated that Wenheng worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. He had a security clearance and purposefully accessed restricted military and naval locations “to collect and record” information.

Wenheng specifically gave information about the US Navy’s large-scale drills in the Indo-Pacific region. As well as electrical diagrams and designs for a radar system on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

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Wenheng also utilized sophisticated encrypted communication methods to spread the information, erased evidence, and kept his relationship with a Chinese spy hidden. He received at least 14 distinct bribes totaling at least $14,866 (£11,650) between August 2021 and May 2023.

The charged officer was born in China and is a naturalized US citizen. He moved to the United States in 2009 and became a citizen in 2012. He joined the Navy five years later. US authorities detained him in California last August. After, he pled guilty to spying charges in October 2023.

A district judge in California jailed a US Navy officer Wenheng Zhao for 27 months in prison. He was facing up to a maximum charge of 20 years in prison.

However, China’s embassy in Washington stated that it was not informed of the details of Zhao’s case. The Chinese embassy accused the US government and media of exaggerating spying cases. They also claimed many of these allegations were based on false claims.

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