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Military court convicts U.S. sailor of attempted espionage

The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is pictured in the South China Sea on July 28, 2022.
Christopher Bosch
U.S. Navy
The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is pictured in the South China Sea on July 28, 2022.

A military court 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 the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

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

"This guilty verdict holds Mr. Pedicini to account 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 for investigations and counterintelligence.

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

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

The charging docket doesn't list the foreign state nor the type of information shared. Pedicini "had reason to believe it would be harmful to the United States or advantageous to the foreign nation," the NCIS said. In all, Pedicini gave classified information to a citizen or employee of a foreign government at least six times, the charging documents said.

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

"Adversaries of the United States are unrelenting in their attempts to degrade our military superiority," Lopez said.

A military judge will sentence Pedicini on May 7.

Pedicini is from Nashville, Tenn., 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 controlman, according to a blog post by the Navy Office of Community Outreach from 2018. In this role, Pedicini oversaw the operation and maintenance of missile systems, gun fire control systems and computer systems.

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Luke Garrett
Luke Garrett is an Elections Associate Producer at NPR News.