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Security expert says classification process needs to be updated following U.S. Sailor's espionage case

The USS Essex
Posted at 7:21 AM, Aug 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-05 10:21:12-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - — Espionage is not a term to take lightly.

Two U.S. sailors, one stationed in San Diego, are accused of selling U.S. secrets to China.

How preventable is giving away our nation’s classified information?

"It’s not 100% preventable. You can’t prevent the human factor," said Shawn VanDiver.

Shawn VanDiver served in the Navy for over a decade, working in classified areas as a fire control man.

Then went on to specialize in security.

"Look, we got to the moon; we can figure out how to better secure our stuff," he said.

VanDiver said the classification process is a problem in our security systems.

He said the background check used to give a sailor a U.S. Security clearance is what is heavily relied on. VanDiver added sailors are only given access to what they need to do their jobs.

"The systems we’ve been using have been in place for decades and haven’t been really reformed. So, you’re taking these 19th and 20th-century ideas and applying it to the 21st century when we have these in our hands. And we have Apple watches, and we have aura rings, and we have all these devices that we can use to track ourselves our activity and all those things, but they’re all of the vulnerability," he explained.

The San Diego-based sailor Jinchao Wei is accused of being tasked with passing photos, documents and manuals about Navy ships and systems.

RELATED: Navy sailor assigned to San Diego-based ship faces espionage charges

VanDiver said while the risk of our defenses being rendered useless is unlikely, that could be a result of sharing information.

ABC 10News reporter Ciara Encinas asked about how many other people does he think might be breached that we don’t know about yet.

"That can be a very scary prospect to think about, right? You can’t control it all, but like there is indicators when things have been compromised," said VanDiver. "There is going to be spies as long as we disagree with other countries."

He tells those serving to do the right thing even when nobody’s looking.

"You have to live with yourself your entire life. You’re only on your ship, or you’re only in a situation for a short period of time, but selling out your country that’s forever,"