The Schwartz Case

June 1, 1995 - Shawn Cohen - Washington Jewish Week

A U.S. Naval commander has been charged with espionage for allegedly passing secret documents to the Saudi Arabian military.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Schwartz, with the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va., has been accused of disseminating classified intelligence documents to officers in the Saudi Arabian naval force while he was assigned to the U.S. Military Training Mission in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, between November 1992 and September 1994.

Vice Admiral Richard Allen, the convening authority for the Atlantic Fleet, has appointed Cmdr. Kenneth Frantz to conduct an Article 32 investigation - the military's form of a grand jury - to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a court martial or other administrative action.

The hearing may be held during the first week of June, said Cmdr. Kevin Wensing, public affairs officer for the Atlantic Fleet.

"This case is certainly not on the scale of the Walker spy case; nonetheless these are serious charges," said Wensing.

Schwartz, 43, of El Paso, Texas, is charged with four violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other federal statutes for wilfully delivering national defense information on documents and computer diskettes to officers of a foreign naval service "with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

The documents, which included classified messages to foreign countries, a series of military intelligence digests, intelligence advisories and tactical intelligence summaries, were classified up to the secret level and specified "no foreign disclosure."

Schwartz was also charged with wrongfully storing classified materials at his home, then lying about it an official statement to a special agent in September 1994.

The most serious charge of espionage is punishable by up to life imprisonment, according to the UCMJ.

"This appears to be an isolated incident," said Wensing. "Why he did it is the big question."

Wensing said there is no indication that Schwartz received any pay for the information and that this appears to be an isolated incident.

"I am not in a position to characterize the motivation of this individual," he said.

Schwartz, a surface warfare officer, was reassigned to shore base command in the Norfolk area until the case is resolved. He graduated from officer candidates school in 1980 in Newport, R.I., and was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy.

So far, the case has been handled entirely by the Atlantic Fleet. The Department of Defense is keeping a close eye on the case although it has yet to get involved.

"At this point, it's not really causing waves," said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Campbell, a DoD spokesperson. "We are naturally tuned into what's going on, but the Department of Defense must wait for the Article 32 proceeding to be completed and see if hard charges are brought forth."

Since the investigation is incomplete, Campbell said, the United States has to be careful in addressing the subject with Saudi Arabia. The matter is "politically sensitive" since the United States has strong relations with the Saudi government, he said.

"At this stage, it's just the beginning," he added.

Both Allen and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Julie Tinker, who is representing Schwartz, would not comment.

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