Earlier this month James Robert Schweitzer was arrested by the FBI after going on a spree of leaking classified information in order to get back at his employer and the federal government. The criminal complaint notes Schweitzer, a Huntington Beach, CA resident, lost his government security clearance in 2014 for using medical marijuana. Though he believed the revocation of his clearance to be unjust, he continued to work with his employer, Raytheon, in a position which did not require a security clearance until July 2016, when he resigned.

Schweitzer’s actions following his departure from his employer can only be described as a man who wanted to be vindicated and believed the only way he could be heard was in court, so he set out in a deliberate fashion to embarrass Raytheon and the DoD. In doing so, he also put the security of the nation at risk.

The court records detail how Schweitzer, a California resident, began using medically prescribed marijuana in 2010 (California legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996 and recreational marijuana in 2016). Schweitzer informed his Facility Security Officer (FSO) at the time and of the fact and was told by his FSO that there would be no problems with the use of medical marijuana.  Schweitzer would learn, four years later, that his FSO was misinformed and had given him erroneous advice.

DOHA reviews Schweitzer’s security clearance adjudication

Following his 2014 periodic security clearance review and adjudication, Schweitzer’s security clearance was suspended due to the medicinal marijuana use (Guideline H – Drug Involvement). The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) advised Schweitzer that the FSO error mitigated his past use of medicinal marijuana, BUT he would have to cease use of marijuana going forward. Schweitzer continued to use marijuana and lost his clearance.

A review of DOHA case adjudications in 2014 and 2015 shows us that individuals with similar issues, who opted to cease medicinal marijuana usage had their security clearance granted.  Examples: ISCR Case No. 13-01346 and ISCR Case No. 14-04957.

DoD Inspectors General Office

Finding no joy within the DOHA process, he tried to get the adjudication overturned by going through the DoD Inspectors General office, where he filed a complaint in June 2016 via the unclassified online system citing security violations at Raytheon and describing a classified DoD sensor program on which he participated.

He followed this in July 2018 with another complaint to the IG where he accused Raytheon of security violations and again included a letter in which he described his work – again containing information found to be classified. Following receipt of the 2018 note from Schweitzer, the IG contacted him affirming receipt and admonished him to not send classified information via the unclassified complaint system.

Mid-September Schweitzer sent a third letter and received a call from law enforcement, which was recorded and during which Schweitzer admitted knowing he had sent classified information on the unclassified system and was again told to stop.

Law enforcement puts their case together

On November 13, 2018, law enforcement arrived at Schweitzer’s residence, with two search warrants in hand – one for to search his person and the other his residence. The search resulted in the recovery of multiple electronic devices. Then the case seemingly went dormant.

Impatient Schweitzer, some four months after his having his devices seized and person and residence searched, fires off multiple emails and messages to DoD employees and a media outlet in March 2019. He highlights how he felt he had been wronged and was using classified information to get the DoD’s attention to his plight. When he wasn’t getting the results he desired, he then sent an email to a DoD employee in April 2019 stating his intent to continue to reveal classified information.

In August 2019, using his LinkedIn account’s direct messaging, he told an unidentified individual how he had sent “packages” to four media outlets containing classified information.

He then seemed to lose all self-control and began a barrage of emails.

First he sent a document containing information which he believed to be Top Secret to various Raytheon employees This was followed by an email to Raytheon and a media outlet asking their opinion on the classified information he had been sending over the course of the year. This was followed two days later with an email to various Raytheon and DoD employees and media outlets reminding them “I intentionally sent you something that should be treated as classified.” These actions continued into September 2019. Then he tweeted how he believed an attack on Saudi oil facilities was forewarned by his paper which highlighted the vulnerability in his “complaint.”

In October 2019, Schweitzer published a seven-page paper containing information on the DoD sensor program to his LinkedIn profile. In December 2019, he wrote the Huntington Beach Police Department noting he was publishing classified material and intended to continue to do so.

Meanwhile, his pastor advised the Huntington Beach Police Department that Schweitzer was making threats to the community. Schweitzer was interviewed by the police concerning his conversation about a “dark fantasy” in which he wished to commit mass violence. The police followed-up, including a search of his residence and an evaluation by a mental health evaluator. They concluded that Schweitzer was not a physical threat to the community.

FBI interviews Schweitzer

The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly as evidence by the time passed from Schweitzer’s 2018 sharing of classified information across an unclassified system to his initial interview of Schweitzer by the FBI on February 13.

The voluntary FBI interview took place at the Los Angeles Field Office to which Schweitzer presented himself. During the course of the interview, he admitted sharing classified information, noting how the November 2018 search of his house missed devices which contained classified information. The FBI met with Schweitzer multiple times between February and May, during which Schweitzer apparently toyed with the FBI on whether or not he had provided them with all copies of the classified information (he hadn’t). He would then publish another iteration of the classified information in his possession and ask to be arrested.

He was not arrested.

On July 28, Schweitzer sent another email to a variety of DoD employees and U.S. media outlets. He warns he is going to again publish classified information unless someone gives him something and provides the individuals with a link to his Dropbox. The next day he leaves a voice mail for the FBI special agent who had been interviewing him, advising he was going to be distributing another classified document.

What transpired between late-July and December 2020 isn’t shared publicly. What we do know is that on December 3, Schweitzer was arrested.

Lessons learned

Marijuana

While many states have legalized the use of marijuana, it remains illegal within the federal footprint and using any drugs, including marijuana will affect your security clearance. FSO’s need to be clear in their guidance to their employees. We don’t know if Schweitzer would have taken a different path had his FSO, in 2010, given the correct guidance, which was that marijuana, even medically prescribed marijuana is prohibited for an individually holding a national security clearance under Guideline H (Drug Involvement).

Retention of Classified Information

Schweitzer’s complaint indicates that even after he lost his security clearance, he was still working on a classified DoD sensor program. When he lost his clearance, he no doubt was read-out of various programs and audits at that time should have documented his access and acquired an attestation that he was not retaining classified information. It’s clear from his prolific sharing of classified information that he retained some information prior to his departure, and that information was taken undetected.

Classified Information Ages Well

It should be noted that Schweitzer’s access to classified information was dated, yet was still of value to an adversary of the U.S. He intentionally shared classified information in the public arena with the hopes that he would be arrested. He intended to embarrass Raytheon and the DoD for what he believed to be wrongful removal of his national security clearance.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com