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Military court convicts American sailor of attempted espionage

A military court has found a U.S. Navy sailor — who previously served on a guided-missile destroyer based in Japan — guilty of sharing classified defense information with a “representative of a foreign government,” according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini was convicted Friday of attempted espionage, disobeying a lawful order and attempted violation of a lawful general order.

“This guilty verdict holds Mr. Pedicini accountable for his betrayal of his country and fellow service members,” NCIS Director Omar Lopez said in a statement. The NCIS is a branch of the Navy that handles investigations and counterintelligence.

NPR has reached out to the Navy Judge Advocate General’s office for comment from Pedicini’s attorney.

NCIS arrested Pedicini on May 19, 2023, after their investigators discovered he shared “classified and national defense information” with a foreign agent between November 2022 and February 2023, NCIS said. Days before his arrest, Pedicini attempted to share photos of his computer screen aboard the Japan-based destroyer USS Higgins with his contact, according to charging documents.

The charge booklet does not indicate the foreign state or the type of information shared. Pedicini “had reason to believe that it would be harmful to the United States or beneficial to foreign countries,” NCIS said. In all, Pedicini gave classified information to a citizen or employee of a foreign government at least six times, according to the charging documents.

The foreign government representative received information from Pedicini “under the guise of writing research papers.” According to NCIS, this is an increasingly common tactic for sharing classified information with unauthorized eyes.

“Adversaries of the United States are relentless in their efforts to degrade our military superiority,” Lopez said.

A military judge will sentence Pedicini on May 7.

Pedicini is from Nashville, Tennessee, and joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from Christ Presbyterian Academy in 2007.

Before his service on the USS Higgins, Pedicini worked on the USS Curtis Wilbur — a Japan-based guided missile destroyer — as a fire control officer, according to a 2018 Navy Office of Community Outreach blog post. In this role, Pedicini oversaw operations and maintenance of missile systems, fire control systems and computer systems.

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