US sailor based in Japan charged with espionage

A Navy sailor based in Japan has been charged with espionage for allegedly giving classified information to a foreign government in the past two years.

The Navy in January hit Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini, a fire controlman, with eight espionage-related charges for allegedly providing documents to an employee of a foreign government between November 2022 and May 2023, according to a copy of his charge sheet obtained by The Hill.

Pedicini, who was assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, “is suspected of mishandling classified documents and information,” Naval Surface Force spokesperson Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson confirmed in a statement. “The incident remains under investigation, and legal proceedings continue.”

The charges were first reported by USNI News.

The Navy claims Pedicini gave the foreign employee documents and information related to “national defense” at least seven times over seven months in Hampton Roads, Va., and in Yokosuka, Japan, where the Higgins is based, according to the charge sheet.

It is not publicly known which government Pedicini allegedly provided documents to or the type of information they contained, but the charge sheet said the material held information that “would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

He is also accused of failing to report a foreign contact, failing to report the solicitation of classified information by an unauthorized person, wrongfully taking a personal electronic device into a secure room and attempting to smuggle photos of a secret-level computer screen to a foreign government employee, among other charges.

Pedicini, who joined the Navy in 2008 and served aboard multiple ships, has been under pretrial confinement since May, according to the service records. He is scheduled to face a court martial this week.

He has also emerged as the third sailor in the past year facing espionage-related charges.

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, in January plead guilty and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for accepting money from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for sensitive U.S. military information.

And last year, Jinchao Wei, 22, a machinist mate aboard the San Diego-based USS Essex, was charged with conspiring and sending defense information to a foreign citizen after he allegedly sent military exercise training manuals and ship photos. He has yet to be sentenced.

Asked whether the Pentagon was concerned about the steady string of service members charged with espionage, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh on Thursday referred questions to the Navy, citing the ongoing investigation.

When pressed on whether the Defense Department might want to reinforce existing policies or training for service members to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands, Singh again directed questions to the service.

“If the Navy feels like they need to do better reinforcement of, whether it’s ethics or regulations, I’ll let the Navy speak to that,” she said.

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