A Missile Engineer’s ‘Dark Fantasy’ and Alleged Revenge Plot
James Robert Schweitzer lost his security clearance over medical marijuana. What the feds say happened next is completely off the rails.
A former Pentagon contractor who worked on U.S. missile systems is facing criminal charges for allegedly sharing classified documents in a revenge plot against his employer—after losing his security clearance for smoking legally prescribed pot.
James Robert Schweitzer, a 58-year-old software engineer, has been charged with malicious mischief and destruction of government property after he allegedly began leaking classified “national defense information” in 2016 regarding U.S. missile sensors.
Over a two-year period, authorities allege, Schweitzer sent the classified information to news outlets and even revealed to police his “dark fantasy” was to commit mass murder. Prosecutors say he admitted to the FBI that he knew some of the “critical military information” he exposed “could result in American casualties abroad or in the United States,” and threatened to escalate his activities if he didn’t get what he wanted.
“I’m done playing,” he wrote to the Pentagon in July 2020, according to a criminal complaint that was unsealed last week. “If someone finds my postings and pulls off an attack... I will be thrilled that someone finally took some form of action.”
Schweitzer allegedly posted classified documents in a public Dropbox link that could be accessed by anyone, wrote and posted an article to LinkedIn that contained U.S. military secrets, and even tweeted “congratulations” to Iran after a 2019 drone strike on Saudi oil facilities.
“I crossed the line,” Schweitzer allegedly wrote to a coworker in September 2019. “I also am getting ready to push the paper on WikiLeaks. I have been sending military secrets to DoD for the past year... I have been using... military secrets as bait. You would have thought that would have really upset someone by now.”
Despite this alleged brazen behavior, a court-ordered mental health evaluation in November 2018 found Schweitzwer was not a threat to society. He was arrested Dec. 3 and released later that day on $250,000 bond. His attorney declined to comment on the allegations.
Court records do not name the company where Schweitzer worked from 2003 through July 2016. But his LinkedIn profile identifies him as an “embedded software engineer for radar and communications systems” during that period at Raytheon, the lead manufacturer of Patriot missiles. A list of California state campaign contributions provided by the California secretary of state also identifies Schweitzer as a Raytheon employee, as does the official federal election contributions database. Schweitzer is the second known Raytheon missile systems engineer to be arrested this year for mishandling classified information.
Raytheon, the Department of Defense, and the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California says Schweitzer’s problems began in 2010, when he told his company’s security officer that he intended to begin using medical marijuana prescribed by a physician.
“The [facility security officer] told Schweitzer that his security clearance would be unaffected provided that he complied with state law,” the complaint states.
But four years later, Schweitzer was informed by the DoD that his security clearance was being suspended due to his marijuana use. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, a government entity, told Schweitzer the security officer at his company gave him bad advice and that he’d have to stop using marijuana. Schweitzer didn’t, and was stripped of his clearance in August 2014.
In retaliation, prosecutors say, Schweitzer sent a complaint in June 2016 to the Pentagon Inspector General about his security clearance, using an unclassified website that allows employees to submit qualms and suggestions. He accused Raytheon employees “of committing security violations.” And over the next year and a half, Schweitzer ended up sending several complaints to the IG, alleging his employer violated protocols for handling classified information.
Prosecutors allege that after Schweitzer made another complaint in July 2018, an investigator from the IG’s office phoned him and told him “to not send classified information through unclassified networks.” (Schweitzer appears to have posted on Reddit a January 2020 letter from the IG’s office closing his case and admonishing him for his behavior.)
“That same day, Schweitzer sent an email to the DoDIG and two media outlets, stating that he apologized for ‘contamination’ of the office computers and being ‘more aggressive’ than the recipient would have liked,” the complaint states. “He further stated he was getting nervous about his next ‘free speech stunt.’”
Schweitzer then allegedly began sending classified national defense information about Patriot sensor systems over unsecured computer networks, to Pentagon employees, colleagues at his own company, and members of the news media. The criminal complaint states Schweitzer told agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Command (USACIDC) that he was sending classified information on unclassified systems in order to “bait” the government into responding to his complaints.
The charging document states Schweitzer offered to stop disseminating secrets if the Pentagon and his bosses admitted in writing that his allegations about the supposed security violations were legitimate—so he could sue them.
During these negotiations, Schweitzer continued his leak campaign against the Department of Defense and was “repeatedly warned” by the Pentagon and the FBI to stop what he was doing.
However, prosecutors say, he didn’t listen.
On a May 21, 2020, phone call with the FBI, Schweitzer allegedly said, “I will be contaminating at least a dozen government servers with classified data.” Six days later, he followed up that thread with an email—which came with an attachment DoD deemed classified—to several DoD employees, saying he wanted them to lose at least a half-day of productivity as a result. (Schweitzer’s email forced DoD to take at least three of its computers offline in order to sanitize them and cost at least $8,000 in damages, the complaint says.)
One of Schweitzer’s former colleagues later told the FBI that he received a message on social media from his ex-coworker admitting he had crossed the line and was trying to get documents to WikiLeaks.
“They did raid my house, they even returned classified files... I even had my... paper available for over two weeks,” Schweitzer allegedly said, according to the complaint. “I took the paper down after the [attacks on Foreign Country A].... If [Foreign Country B] would have read my paper, they would not have needed the drones... To help accelerate things - I shot a note to [Foreign Country A] earlier today.”
Based on available public information, “Country A” appears to be Saudi Arabia, and “Country B” seems to be Iran—and Schweitzer’s rant was apparently referring to a Sept. 14, 2019, drone strike on Saudi oil facilities that temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s production capabilities. A U.S. intelligence assessment blamed the attacks on Iran.
“Congratulations Iranian Engineers, you defeated the Patriot Radar,” Schweitzer tweeted a few days later. “It looks like you figured out a vulnerability I tried to report to DoD over 3 years ago. #SaudiAttacks”
On the question-and-answer website Quora, Schweitzer in March 2019 described himself as a “whistleblower,” and said he worked on the Sentinel/P1350 programs at Raytheon. He said he regretted going public with his beefs, and claimed to have been iced out by politicians he contacted for help. Schweitzer also said Raytheon “broke the law” by allowing him to continue working on classified programs after he lost his clearance.
Army investigators searched Schweitzer’s home in November 2018, and seized a number of digital devices. They soon discovered a multitude of messages that, they said, further detailed his plan.
“Back when I submitted my complaint almost 3 years ago, I would have never even considered using military secrets as bait,” Schweitzer allegedly wrote to several Pentagon employees and a media outlet in March 2019. “Last summer, it became my primary tactic. Lordy, how times change.”
The following month, Schweitzer is said to have written to several federal agencies and a media company: “I will not stop. You know the truth, stop suppressing it. Keep threatening me with incarceration. My cause is just and I will persist regardless of your misguided efforts.”
Another message to a DoD employee read, “I will continue to use your classified info as bait. I will keep pulling stunts until I am vindicated or incarcerated... I personally soiled your inbox with classified data last year. Has that [sic] cleaned that up yet? I sent it to you on Sept 10, 2018. It’s still in my email archives, I have waited over 4 months for instructions on how to safely delete it. I will resist the temptation to re-forward it to you for as long as possible. That would be a ‘fresh’ violation and that may land me in court where I get to ask about my named co-defendants.”
Schweitzer’s need for revenge against his former employers even included violent fantasies, the complaint alleged. In November 2018, a minister at his congregation told Huntington Beach Police Department that “Schweitzer told him he had thoughts about shooting up government buildings and that it would help solve his issues and get his message across.”
According to prosecutors, when the minister informed Schweitzer that he was a “mandated reporter,” Schweitzer doubled down on this threat, stating that “if push came to shove” he would use violence to “Get his message across so the change in government would happen.” When police showed up to Schweitzer’s house, he insisted he did not have any weapons and that a mass shooting was a “[expletive] it button” he was “far from pushing.”
“Schweitzer stated he had a dark fantasy of committing violence against a conservative U.S. political organization (‘U.S. Organization 1’) because it sent out so much hate into the world. He stated he only had a one percent chance of acting out his dark fantasy, but he felt a strong temptation to act it out,” the complaint states.
Despite the violent threats, a mental health evaluator with the Orange County Health Care Agency declined to hold Schweitzer because he did not “appear to be a danger to himself or society.”
(In a February 2020 conversation with investigators, Schweitzer said his comments about mass violence were just a fantasy—adding that he believed in a national gun registry and that “the best way to make a difference is to plan ‘an event at [U.S. Organization 1]’ because they would have to pay attention.”)
Investigators also delved into Schweitzer’s social media accounts, and dug up private messages he sent to an unnamed individual claiming to have sent a classified “package” to four news organizations and hoped to send additional materials classified at the Top Secret level.
In August 2018, Schweitzer emailed various Raytheon employees, saying, “Technically, the attached paper is not classified because only the US government can declare something classified. HOWEVER—trust me, it is quite classified. My goal was is (sic) a Top Secret. On Monday Aug 5, 7 packages with this paper will be getting opened up (many on the east coast). More packages will be showing up through the week.”
He then took things a step further, posting an article that contained information he apparently knew was classified, on LinkedIn, prosecutors said.
“The paper I sent to you through the mail and e-mail is now available online,” he wrote in an email to the Defense Department. “...Over the past 14 months, I have made at least two dozen transmissions of secret data from my house... I have been leaving classified droppings across the nation the past year.”
Although Schweitzer later deleted the article, he at first refused to take it down “until DoD admitted that he should not have worked on the [Patriot] sensor program without a clearance.” In February 2020, Schweitzer told the FBI that he was trying to ““cleanup [the] large classified spill that [he] created over the past 5 years,” the complaint says.
In his Quora posting from last year, he indicates disappointment at how things turned out.
“When I explained what happened at Raytheon, an Army investigator gave me the response of ‘life ain’t fair,’” Schweitzer wrote.
“He was correct, I was recording the call at the time. So—no. I am not glad I went whistleblower. When Raytheon Ethics started the chorus of ‘Don’t rock the boat,’ I should have joined in. It would have been much easier and less painful.”