A U.S. naval officer accused of giving secret-level classified material to Saudi Arabia pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information and was dismissed from naval service rather than face court martial, the Navy said Monday.
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Schwartz was supposed to be court-martialled next month on charges of mishandling classified documents, making a false official statement to investigators, and espionage. He admitted to the first two charges, and the Navy agreed to give him an "other than honorable" discharge instead of a court-martial, the Navy said.
Last year, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began looking into allegations that Schwartz had given sensitive material, including intelligence summaries and analysis messages, to Saudi military officials, according to the Navy.
He was found out by another member of the U.S. military, who reported him, a naval source said.
It was unclear if the Saudis had solicited the material or if Schwartz had received any compensation, financial or otherwise, from them.
Schwartz, a 15-year veteran, was assigned to the U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia at the time. He had held commands in the Middle East during the 1990-91 Desert Storm and Desert Shield operations, the source said.
The Navy's decision to court-martial Schwartz came following his Article-32 hearing at the naval station in Norfolk, Virginia, in August. The closed hearing, similar to a civilian Grand Jury hearing, examined the evidence against Schwartz, and the investigating officer issued a recommendation to the Convening Naval Authority that Schwartz be court-martialled, the Navy said.
A court-martial date of November 14 was set at the Navy Legal Services Office during an arraignment on September 7, according to the Navy.
Schwartz's Article-32 investigation had originally been scheduled for June, but his defense was granted continuance until July 21, to have more time to prepare, the naval source said.
The hearing was again postponed at the end of July because the presiding judge wanted to review some of the information presented. It reconvened several weeks later, the source added.
Schwartz will lose all rank, pay and military privileges. He has agreed to continue cooperating with investigators assigned to his case, according to the Navy.