National security experts weigh in on San Diego sailor accused of selling intel to China

Getty Images

At a time when the U.S. remains vigilant to protect its national security, two sailors are facing serious accusations of selling sensitive military information to Chinese intelligence officials.

Jinchao Wei, 22, is accused of sharing photos, videos and more than 50 manuals with a Chinese intelligence official, which contained information on weapon systems, electrical systems and security systems.

NBC 7's Jeanette Quezada breaks down the accusations against a San Diego-based Navy sailor.

In exchange, he was paid $15,000 dollars.

“Young sailors tend to be a good prospect for these types of individuals because they’re not paid a lot of money, so when you’re being offered a lot of money to provide information – that could be appealing to some people,” said Gary Barthel, a retired veteran and managing partner of the Law Center.

Yesterday, officials also charged 26-year-old Whenheng Zhao, who worked at Naval Base Ventura County, with sharing information with China.

What makes this case significant is the amount of information that is alleged to have been shared with Chinese intelligence officials, according to Barthel.

“It endangers military personnel, government contractors, federal civilian employees who work on these installations, as well as dependents of service members who also live and work on these installations,” he said.

If found guilty, Barthel said the consequences could be serious.

“For Petty Officer Zhao, he’s looking at a total 20 years confinement, and then machinist made Wei, he’s looking at potentially life in prison, any amount of years – up to life in prison. In addition to that, they’re looking at fines, and they will have to forfeit whatever money they were looking to receive from the Chinese, they have to forfeit that money back to the government,” Barthel said.

Barthel said the U.S. Navy will have to re-evaluate who has access to sensitive information and make changes to its systems.

Barthel said they will not be charged in military court because both courts are on the federal level and it’s standard practice for them to defer to the federal authorities to prosecute cases. However, he said it’s very likely the military will take administrative action against both individuals.

Contact Us