American Naval Linguist Pleads Not Guilty to Espionage Act Charges

A linguist for the Navy in Bahrain is charged under the Espionage Act with possessing classified documents; some of which ended up in public archives of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. The deputy archivist at the Hoover Institution told Hitselberger in an email that “in light of the FBI investigation of your collection … we will no longer accept additions to the collection, as we don’t want to risk receiving more classified material.” Hitselberger replied that he “was unable to locate my regular reading glasses that day over a month ago and I did not notice the `secret’ designation at the bottom.”
Fluent in Arabic, James Hitselberger’s job as a federal contractor was to translate documents for the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council. The council contains a unit conducting special reconnaissance, counter terrorism and unconventional warfare.
An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday says Hitselberger copied documents last spring that discussed gaps in U.S. intelligence in Bahrain as well as military troop activities in the region. His superiors later found the material stashed in his backpack, and investigators said they subsequently discovered additional classified material at Stanford in the “James F. Hitselberger Collection.”
The section of the Espionage Act that Hitselberger is charged with violating prohibits unauthorized possession of defense information that could be used to injure the United States or aid a foreign power.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ordered Hitselberger held without bond. “While the government concedes that defendant has no history of violence and did not disseminate the classified information to a `foreign power,'” Robinson wrote, “defendant’s retention of classified documents poses a danger to the community by potentially compromising national security.”
Hitselberger pleaded not guilty on Oct. 26.

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