updated 12/4/2006 11:58:12 AM ET 2006-12-04T16:58:12

A sailor accused of stealing a Navy laptop and peddling its classified contents to an undisclosed foreign government pleaded guilty Monday to espionage, desertion and other charges.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, 22, of Salem, Ore., faces a sentence of life in prison without parole, a dishonorable discharge from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay.

Under a plea agreement, Weinmann pleaded guilty to one count each of espionage, desertion, failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, copying classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer.

Weinmann pleaded guilty to trying to transmit classified information related to national defense to a representative of a foreign government on Oct. 19, 2005 while he was in or near Vienna, Austria.

He pleaded not guilty to two additional espionage counts, one accusing him of giving classified information to an agent of a foreign government in March of 2005 in Bahrain and another accusing him of trying to deliver confidential information on March 19, 2006 in Mexico City.

Weinmann told the judge, who had yet to accept the plea, that he deserted the Navy in July 2005 because the service did not meet his expectations.

“I had a very idealized view, basically what amounted to a World War II Navy,” Weinmann told the judge.

Arrested at airport
Weinmann, a fire control technician, had been stationed on the Connecticut-based submarine USS Albuquerque.

He said he did not report for duty aboard his submarine on July 3, 2005. He moved to Austria and never planned to come back to the United States, but changed his mind and was arrested in March at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Weinmann told the judge he believed his actions could hurt morale and security.

“I believe if it fell into the wrong hand, sir, the information could be detrimental to the United States,” Weinmann said.

He said he made copies of classified material on a laptop computer, which he brought with him to Austria. He said he printed one document and copied other information onto CDs and said he had unclassified, classified and secret information sitting on a table in his apartment in Austria.

The military has not said what it believes Weinmann might have sought in exchange for the information.

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