- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

12:22 p.m.

NORFOLK — A sailor accused of stealing a Navy laptop and peddling its classified contents to an undisclosed foreign government pleaded guilty this morning to espionage, desertion and other charges.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, 22, of Salem, Ore., faces a sentence of life in prison without parole, a dishonorable discharge from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay.

Under a plea agreement, Weinmann pleaded guilty to one of three counts of espionage.

He also pleaded guilty to one count each of desertion, failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, copying classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer.

In addition, Weinmann pleaded guilty to trying to transmit classified information related to national defense to a representative of a foreign government on Oct. 19, 2005, while he was in or near Vienna, Austria.

He pleaded not guilty to a count of espionage for trying to give classified information to an agent of a foreign government in March 2005 in Bahrain and a third count of trying to deliver confidential information on March 19 in Mexico City.

Weinmann told the judge, who had yet to accept the plea, that he deserted the Navy in July 2005 because the service did not meet his expectations.

“I had a very idealized view, basically what amounted to a World War II Navy,” Weinmann told the judge.

He said he did not report for duty aboard his submarine on July 3, 2005.

He moved to Austria and planned never to come back to the United States but changed his mind and was arrested in March at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

When he was arrested, Weinmann was carrying $4,000 in cash, three CD-ROMs, an external computer storage device and memory cards for storing digital images.

Weinmann told the judge he believed his actions could hurt morale and security.

“I believe if it fell into the wrong hand, sir, the information could be detrimental to the United States,” Weinmann said.

He said he had made copies of classified material on a laptop computer, which he brought with him to Austria.

He said he printed one document and copied other information onto CDs and said he had unclassified, classified and secret information sitting on a table in his apartment in Austria.

The military has not said what it believes Weinmann might have sought in exchange for the information.

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