A US Navy sailor, Ariel J. Weinmann, is suspected of spying for Israel and has been held in prison for four months, according to an article published Monday in the Saudi daily Al-Watan. It reported that Weinmann is being held at a military base in Virginia on suspicion of espionage and desertion.
According to the navy, Weinmann was apprehended on March 26 “after it was learned that he had been listed as a deserter by his command.” Though initial information released by the navy makes no mention of it, Al-Watan reported that he was returning from an undisclosed “foreign country.” American sources close to the Defense Department told Al-Watan that Israel was the country in question.
“The US Navy concluded Article 32 proceedings [a pretrial investigation] in the case of Fire Control Technician Third Class Ariel J. Weinmann on July 26, 2006,” Ted Brown, a media relations officer at the US Fleet Forces Command, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The US Fleet Forces Command is the “convening authority of the case… and will make the decision with respect to what charges, if any, will be referred to a general court-martial.”
The veracity of Al-Watan’s claim that Weinmann is suspected of spying for Israel remains in question, and military and Pentagon spokesmen are remaining tightlipped. A public affairs officer at the Office of Naval Intelligence told the Post that he was unaware of the allegations against Weinmann.
Al-Watan speculated that if Weinmann spied on behalf of the Mossad, it would be the biggest espionage case since Jonathan Pollard’s arrest. Pollard, who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, was caught in 1985 and convicted of spying for Israel. He is currently serving a life sentence in the US.
According to the navy, “Weinmann was assigned to the USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) and had deserted on or about July 3, 2005.” The Albuquerque is a Los Angeles-class attack submarine.
Though the navy’s initial press release contained no reference to Israel, Brown stated that more detailed information about the case would be released shortly.