Air Force veteran charged with leaking weapons, aircraft secrets

A retired Air Force officer was indicted this week on nine charges tied to illegally possessing and transmitting classified information on U.S. Air Force weapons and aircraft. 

Retired Lt. Col. Paul J. Freeman, 68, of Niceville, Florida, is accused of willfully possessing and then sharing the classified information with “people not entitled to receive it.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced the grand jury indictment on June 27. The charges cover a period of five months.

“As alleged in the indictment, Freeman, on multiple occasions between November 2020 and March 2021, transmitted classified national defense information about United States Air Force aircraft and weapons to people not authorized to access the information,” the Department of Justice wrote in its press release on the indictments. 

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What specifically was leaked was not disclosed. According to the indictment, Freeman allegedly had “unauthorized possession of, access to, and control over information related to the national defense,” and it pertained to “vulnerabilities of United States Air Force aircraft” and “weapons systems.”

It’s not clear when authorities, specifically the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, began investigating the leaks or Freeman specifically.

Freeman is scheduled for a detention hearing on Monday, July 1 at the United States Courthouse in Pensacola, Florida.

Freeman served in the Air Force from 1975-2003. He became an officer in 1984, and served as a developmental engineer. When he retired, he was then serving with the 46th Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, which is only a few miles west of Niceville. 

As Air & Space Forces Magazine noted, a Paul J. Freeman of Niceville, Florida previously sued the Department of the Air Force and lost an appeals case in 2019. In that case, the Freeman there worked as a civilian employee for the Air Force starting in 2003, eventually serving as Senior Engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory. He was removed in 2016 on charges of being AWOL and negligently sending two emails with classified information from his personal computer. It is not confirmed if these are both about the same person. 

The alleged leak is one of several in recent years. In March, a retired Army officer, Lt. Col. David Franklin Slater, was accused of leaking classified information tied to Russia and Ukraine via an online dating site, while he was working as an Air Force civilian employee with U.S. Strategic Command. Also in March, Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira pleaded guilty to six counts tied to leaking classified information on Discord servers, done to impress others on the gaming chat groups. He is due to be sentenced in September.

Freeman is innocent until proven guilty. If he is convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the nine counts against him.

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Nicholas Slayton

Contributing Editor

Nicholas Slayton is a Contributing Editor for Task & Purpose. In addition to covering breaking news, he writes about history, shipwrecks, and the military’s hunt for unidentified anomalous phenomenon (formerly known as UFOs). He currently runs the Task & Purpose West Coast Bureau from Los Angeles.