December 4, 2021

James Robert Schweitzer, Ex-Raytheon Engineer, Explains Why He Leaked U.S. Missile Secrets and techniques

13 min read


A former Raytheon missile defense engineer who just lately pleaded responsible to leaking U.S. army secrets and techniques claims he did so solely as a result of his determined makes an attempt to appropriate a doubtlessly lethal software program error he by accident made went utterly unheeded by authorities.

“My method and code weren’t adequately reviewed,” James Robert Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast in his first public feedback since his arrest. “I used to be informed to disregard the anomaly that I launched.”

The federal authorities, nonetheless, noticed issues fairly in another way. On the time, Schweitzer was at loggerheads with the Pentagon over his use of medical marijuana, which brought on him to be stripped of his high secret safety clearance. Unable to proceed working in his chosen discipline, Schweitzer, who had hoped to remain at Raytheon till he retired, determined as a substitute to precise revenge on the corporate by exposing categorized info he believed he shouldn’t have had entry to within the first place, according to prosecutors. The federal government’s court docket filings assert that Schweitzer’s motive was merely to get again at Raytheon for shunting him apart. To that finish, Schweitzer informed investigators he needed to convey his supervisors down with him for “illegally” demanding he work on a categorized challenge.

At present, Schweitzer, who says he sees himself not as a traitor however a whistleblower, continues to be reeling from being hauled in by the feds final yr, describing the nightmarish expertise as “a comedy of errors, so far as I’m involved—a darkish comedy of errors.”

As The Daily Beast exclusively reported at the time, Schweitzer, 58, was arrested and charged in December 2020 with malicious mischief and destruction of presidency property for sharing “nationwide protection info” relating to U.S. missile sensors. Prosecutors said Schweitzer knew some of what he exposed “may end in American casualties overseas or in the US,” which Schweitzer freely admits, insisting that’s why he was so desperate to sound the alarm.

Schweitzer, a California resident, claims he reported the alleged software program bug to the DoD hotline, the Military, the FBI, and each single member of Congress to no avail. In accordance with him, authorities mentioned they’d maintain it, however by no means did so as to save face after deploying a supposedly damaged system that was getting used to, amongst different issues, shield the airspace within the Washington, D.C., space, and will have price 1000’s of lives. Court docket filings by investigators and prosecutors, who wouldn’t touch upon the case, don’t point out something about this supposed anomaly.

Schweitzer, a deeply non secular man who says he’s on the milder finish of the autism spectrum and really practically grew to become a Catholic priest, told investigators that he had “adopted the method Edward Snowden was speculated to comply with.” However, he mentioned, it did “not work as marketed.”

In response to an in depth checklist of questions on Schweitzer’s claims The Each day Beast submitted to the FBI, a bureau spokesperson mentioned, “Per DOJ coverage, we neither verify nor deny the existence of any investigation and should not have a remark for you.”

Nearly all of Schweitzer’s troubles may be traced again to 2014. Whereas working at a Raytheon facility in Fullerton, California, Schweitzer developed categorized radar sign processing software program to be used by the U.S. Military. However after he misplaced his clearance that August, Schweitzer claims he was saved on the categorized challenge on the Military’s request. In a dash to the end in late 2015, Schweitzer mentioned he was up late one evening making an attempt to deal with an “algorithmic instability” within the radar software program. Conscious of the approaching deadline, together with directions to ship outcomes, Schweitzer mentioned he bought a bit sloppy and inadvertently launched a vulnerability into the system.

In accordance with Schweitzer, nobody noticed the bug as an enormous deal, and dealing on a repair bought placed on the backburner. Within the meantime, Schweitzer mentioned he was introduced with a problem coin for writing the supposedly defective software program. (The software program vulnerability Schweitzer claims to have by accident baked into the radar system just isn’t talked about anyplace in court docket filings by prosecutors. Nevertheless, he made point out of it in posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and different on-line websites. Whereas being questioned by investigators in 2019, Schweitzer said he had been told by authorities that his code was “in place and dealing,” in response to one DoD report.)

“I didn’t have a safety clearance once I developed the categorized code,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast. “Raytheon administration directed me to interrupt the regulation, the Military was conscious of Raytheon’s actions and appeared the opposite manner.”

The federal government claims Schweitzer “was certainly working near however not within the categorized realm,” according to internal DoD reports Schweitzer later obtained by means of the Freedom of Info Act, including that Schweitzer was “faraway from the challenge” as soon as there was no additional unclassified work to be performed.

In June 2016, Schweitzer pulled off the primary of what he calls his “stunts.” He submitted a criticism to the DoD Inspector Common accusing Raytheon of committing safety violations—particularly, greater than a dozen higher-ups he claimed had him work on a categorized challenge with no correct clearance. Schweitzer’s criticism, according to court filings, “contained nationwide protection info categorized on the SECRET degree.”

Schweitzer resigned from Raytheon the next month.

“Due to my horrible late evening design determination, a key part of our nation’s homeland defenses may permit missiles/planes/drones to method undetected,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast. “I made a decision to get loud. I consider I used to be speculated to get loud.”

For those who understood the vulnerability, you’ll perceive why I couldn’t stay silent.

James Schweitzer

Schweitzer continued bombarding DoD over the next year-and-a-half with reports accusing Raytheon of violating protocols for dealing with categorized info referring to his personal work on categorized methods with out holding a clearance. He inundated the Inspector Common with submissions, accusing Raytheon of wasteful spending, and identified that his personal marijuana use had been a violation of the federal government’s drug-free office coverage. Lots of the complaints purposely included categorized attachments. Schweitzer says the FBI informed him he “overwhelmed” the IG together with his exercise, a scenario prompt in court docket information.

The exact concern with the software program stays categorized, in response to Schweitzer, who claims he’s prohibited from sharing any particulars. Authorities have by no means confirmed or denied Schweitzer’s allegation concerning the bug. However at a September 2021 court hearing, Schweitzer informed the choose, “For those who understood the vulnerability, you’ll perceive why I couldn’t stay silent.”

Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast that he typically “abstracted the vulnerability” by referring to it as a “drawback,” which he left undefined in his public releases, comparable to an article containing categorized info he later posted to LinkedIn. He mentioned the time period “vulnerability” seems a number of occasions in discovery paperwork he was given entry to by prosecutors, however isn’t allowed to share them. At present, Schweitzer describes his crimes as an act of protest. The feds noticed them as, merely, crimes being dedicated by a disgruntled former worker bent on retribution.

Schweitzer grew to become a medical marijuana affected person in 2009. In 2010, he informed Raytheon’s Fullerton Facility Safety Officer, or FSO, that he deliberate on utilizing medical marijuana for his struggles with insomnia, with a physician’s prescription.

Schweitzer, who mentioned he was barely getting by on about three hours of sleep every evening, lived in California, the place medical marijuana was legalized in 1996. He had tried Ambien and Sonata, which didn’t hold him asleep. Lunesta put him to sleep, however gave him “probably the most disgusting desires I’ve ever had.” Schweitzer mentioned he obtained verbal and written permission from the FSO, who knowledgeable him that he “solely needed to abide by state laws.”

Solely, this wasn’t fairly true. Marijuana, even when prescribed by a doctor, stays unlawful underneath federal regulation. And since safety clearances are issued by the federal authorities, federal guidelines apply. In 2014, Schweitzer was up for his normal 10-year safety clearance overview, and mentioned it was then that he “self-identified” as a medical marijuana affected person.

“When [the FSO] discovered the actual laws, she indicated that DoD modified their place on medical marijuana,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast.

The FSO’s “inaccurate recommendation” is cited in the DOJ’s original complaint against Schweitzer, which says the error “mitigated previous use” by Schweitzer. However DoD informed Schweitzer he couldn’t use medical pot from then on. Schweitzer refused—and was stripped of his clearance in August.

The FSO, who’s unnamed within the criticism, was unable to be reached for remark.

Raytheon introduced in one other engineer, who held a high secret clearance, to take over the categorized parts of the missile protection software program that Schweitzer was now not speculated to be touching.

However Schweitzer’s bosses nonetheless had him engaged on delicate facets of this system, he informed Military investigators in a sequence of recorded cellphone calls reviewed by The Each day Beast.

“They needed their code, they needed my abilities on it, and that is how they might do it,” Schweitzer, who was incomes greater than $170,000 a yr at Raytheon, mentioned in one of many calls. “And as soon as I found out what was happening, that I used to be by no means going to get my clearance and I used to be getting used…that was an enormous ‘Oh shit’ second.”

In November 2018, after Schweitzer had been out of labor for greater than two years, a minister from Schweitzer’s congregation contacted the Huntington Seaside Police Division, saying that Schweitzer had spoken to him about having a “darkish fantasy” of taking pictures up authorities buildings to assist get his message throughout. The cops raided his residence early one morning, together with brokers from the Military Legal Investigation Division. His computer systems and digital gadgets had been seized, and so had been his husband’s.

“That was the primary expertise with regulation enforcement,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast. “They confirmed up they usually decided I used to be in disaster. And they also known as within the county disaster supervisor… I shared my unhappy sack story, they usually mentioned they might do nothing.”

Fearing his grievances nonetheless weren’t being taken critically, Schweitzer in March 2019 determined to go scorched-earth. He posted categorized paperwork to a public Dropbox hyperlink, wrote and posted an article on LinkedIn that contained U.S. army secrets and techniques, and tweeted “congratulations” to Iran after a September 2019 drone strike on Saudi oil facilities.

Schweitzer continued needling authorities. In a single occasion, he despatched a hemorrhoid cushion to the DoD Inspector Common with a word studying, “Out of your favourite whistleblower and ache within the rear. Raytheon administration directed me to interrupt the regulation. They bought bonuses for it, and also you ended up with me. It is time so that you can name.”

Via all of it, Schweitzer knew he was taking part in with fireplace, no matter his true intentions.

“I crossed the road,” he wrote to a coworker in September 2019. “I additionally am on the brink of push the paper on WikiLeaks. I’ve been sending army secrets and techniques to DoD for the previous yr… I’ve been utilizing… army secrets and techniques as bait. You’ll have thought that may have actually upset somebody by now.”

I attempted to search out the perfect path to getting my vulnerability mounted. My makes an attempt to speak the vulnerability had been persistently failing… I adopted the method till the method appeared damaged; then I bought loud, and I saved getting louder.

James Schweitzer

Amongst different issues, Schweitzer despatched categorized nationwide protection details about secret missile sensor methods over unsecured laptop networks, to Pentagon staff, coworkers at his personal firm, and members of the information media.

“I’m performed taking part in,” Schweitzer wrote to the Pentagon in July 2020. “If somebody finds my postings and pulls off an assault… I will likely be thrilled that somebody lastly took some type of motion.”

Six months later, Schweitzer was arrested by the FBI. He was delivered to court docket and launched a couple of hours afterward $250,000 bond.

“For those who’re ever going to be arrested, put on lengthy socks,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast. “As a result of shackles in opposition to uncovered ankles is actually disconcerting.”

After practically a yr in court docket, Schweitzer pleaded responsible to malicious interference with communications strains, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

At his sentencing in September, Schweitzer defined his rationale for doing what he did. He provided The Daily Beast with a copy of a statement he read, which isn’t publicly accessible.

“I used to be deliberate, escalating incrementally,” Schweitzer informed the court docket. “I risked my life to get my vulnerability correctly mounted. I need my authorities’s whistleblower packages to work. ‘See One thing, Say One thing,’ ought to imply one thing. Wanting the opposite manner is probably the most expeditious, however it’s a horrible nationwide safety mannequin.”Schweitzer mentioned he “tried to do the correct factor,” primarily based on the knowledge he had, “[a]t every determination level alongside the best way.”

“I used to be compromised,” he continued. “I used to be confronted with a group of horrible selections (silence could possibly be deadly). I attempted to search out the perfect path to getting my vulnerability mounted. My makes an attempt to speak the vulnerability had been persistently failing… I adopted the method till the method appeared damaged; then I bought loud, and I saved getting louder.”

He mentioned he had been affected deeply by the explosion of the Area Shuttle Challenger catastrophe in 1986, and felt the software program glitch was his “O-Ring second”—a reference to the failure of a seal between the Challenger’s stable rocket boosters, which brought on the deadly catastrophe.

In Could 2020, some 10 months earlier than he was arrested, Schweitzer despatched a set of paperwork to the Pentagon that he known as the “Resolution Package deal.” The package deal was meant to assist the DoD perceive and tackle the vulnerability baked into the missile protection software program Schweitzer had launched. When he did this, Schweitzer included categorized info over unclassified networks with the information that DoD would subsequently be compelled to sanitize its servers.

“Mr. Schweitzer’s hope on the time was that the nuisance created by means of this tactic would end result within the DoD taking his considerations critically,” his public defender told the court this past August. “However his conduct was unlawful, and it offers the factual foundation for the crime—malicious interference with communication strains—for which Mr. Schweitzer has [pleaded] responsible right here.”Prosecutors, who outlined Schweitzer’s regular stream of complaints as “categorized spamming,” argued that they weren’t satisfied of Schweitzer’s “altruistic motivations,” and asked for two years of probation. On Sept. 3, Schweitzer was sentenced to 15 months probation, and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution for the prices DoD incurred to wash up their categorized laptop methods. A proposed $1,000 positive was dropped as a part of the plea settlement.

“I consider the Court docket would perceive my persistence, aggressiveness, and occasional belligerence; if the Court docket understood the implications of the vulnerability I by accident created,” Schweitzer said in court. “The potential penalties are usually not hyperbole.”

I deliberately risked my life to get my vulnerability mounted. I consider I achieved my goal and I’ve survived the gauntlets. I had no concept it might be this troublesome to get a bug mounted, however I believe it was vital.

James Schweitzer

As for his “darkish fantasy” about spraying bullets right into a federal constructing, Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast he desires to set the report straight. The truth is, he mentioned, he was engaged on a chunk of fiction in favor of a nationwide gun registry.

“On this fiction, issues went in another way after the Las Vegas Taking pictures,” he mentioned. “The story hero/villain takes the struggle to CPAC. The story describes a mass taking pictures occasion at CPAC 2019. The CPAC households lastly see the sunshine. Inside six months, laws is handed to ascertain a nationwide gun registration database. I shared my darkish fantasy with a younger clergyman; he thought CPAC was a part of the federal government.”

Court docket filings cite at least five separate interviews between Schweitzer and law enforcement concerning the “fantasy.” Every time, Schweitzer assured investigators that he had “no plans” to commit violence, and that he was not planning any form of assault.

Now that he has been sentenced, Schweitzer’s lawyer has ultimately given him the go-ahead to talk to the media. When he contacted The Each day Beast, Schweitzer mentioned he was blissful to lastly have a cellphone once more after the feds confiscated his thrice over the previous yr.

Schweitzer now believes his alleged software program vulnerability has been patched, he informed the choose in his case. In a note he sent to the court at the end of October and provided to The Daily Beast, Schweitzer mentioned he has “90% confidence” his “reckless code is now not a menace to my homeland. I’ve no additional have to submit details about an insufficiently reviewed product that was defending our nation. I deliberately risked my life to get my vulnerability mounted. I consider I achieved my goal and I’ve survived the gauntlets. I had no concept it might be this troublesome to get a bug mounted, however I believe it was vital. My persistence in reaching my objective has taken many tolls. It has been an attention-grabbing journey and an surprising journey of religion.”

Plea negotiations had been “horrible,” Schweitzer informed The Each day Beast.

“The choose known as me boastful for not heeding repeated warnings from DoD and FBI brokers,” he mentioned. “I struggled with the temptation to remind the choose that I used to be the writer of a vulnerability that would have claimed 1000’s of lives.”

Though the phrases of his probation require any laptop Schweitzer makes use of to have monitoring software program put in, his “days of posting and sharing categorized info are over,” he insisted.

In 2019, throughout Schweitzer’s doomed quest, Raytheon lost the $281 million contract to Lockheed Martin.

“The Military deserved a greater radar system,” Schweitzer says now.

When requested the place he goes from right here, Schweitzer—now a convicted felon and unable to ever work once more for the federal government—replied merely, “Ahead.”



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