BREAKING NEWS: FBI Arrests Maryland Man With ‘Star Wars’ Knowledge On Espionage Charges; Spy Case Will Be Co-Prosecuted By Office In Charge Of Alleged ASD Ponzi
The FBI has arrested a Maryland man in a sting and charged him with attempting to pass U.S. defense and space secrets to Israel.
Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., accepted $11,000 in payments from the FBI, believing the payments had come from the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. The payments actually came from the FBI as part of the sting, and Israel was not involved, authorities said.
Nozette once worked for the White House. He is among a group of scientists credited with discovering water on the moon in a project known as “Clementine,” and also has vast experience in weapons systems, including the Strategic Defense Initiative, where he worked in the Office of Survivability, Lethality, and Key Technologies, according to his resume.
The Strategic Defense Initiative, which came into being under President Reagan, was known as “Star Wars.”
â€œThose who would put our nationâ€™s defense secrets up for sale can expect to be vigorously prosecuted,â€ said Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. â€œThis case reflects our firm resolve to hold accountable any individual who betrays the public trust by compromising our national security for his or her own personal gain.â€
Phillips is the boss of the prosecutors handling the AdSurfDaily Ponzi prosecution. His office will co-prosecute Nozette, along with the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Departmentâ€™s National Security Division.
The prosecution will occur in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the same venue in which the civil-forfeiture case against ASD’s assets is being heard. The identity of the judge assigned to hear the case was not immediately clear.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, the judge in the ASD case, is one of the judges in the district.
Nozette, who was charged with attempted espionage, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, if convicted. The case is a reminder of the grave matters of national security that come to the attention of prosecutors in Phillips’ office, with Washington, D.C., being the center of government in the United States.
â€œThe conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nationâ€™s secrets for profit,â€ said David Kris, assistant Attorney General for National Security.
â€œThe FBI is committed to protecting the nationâ€™s classified information and pursuing those who attempt to profit from its release or sale,â€ said Joseph Persichini Jr., assistant director for the FBIâ€™s Washington Field Office.
On Sept. 3, prosecutors said, “Nozette was contacted via telephone by an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer, but who was in fact an undercover employee of the FBI.”
“During that call, Nozette agreed to meet with the [undercover agent] later that day at a hotel in Washington D.C. According to the affidavit, Nozette met with the [undercover agent] that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence,” prosecutors continued.
“Nozette allegedly informed the [undercover agent] that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information,” prosecutors said. “Nozette also allegedly said that he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money.”
An undercover agent “explained to Nozette that the Israeli intelligence agency, or ‘Mossad,’ would arrange for a communication system so that Nozette could pass information to the Mossad in a post office box,” prosecutors said. “Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information to the [undercover agent] and asked for an Israeli passport.”
On Sept. 4, Nozette and the undercover agent met again in the same hotel, prosecutors said.
During the meeting, Nozette told the agent that, although he no longer had legal access to any classified information at a U.S. government facility, “he could, nonetheless, recall the classified information to which he had been granted access, indicating that it was all still in his head,” prosecutors said.
Nozette inquired about getting paid, saying “he preferred to receive cash amounts ‘under ten thousand’ [dollars] so he didnâ€™t have to report it,” prosecutors said.
At the conclusion of the Sept. 4 meeting,Â Nozette said to the undercover agent, â€œWell I should tell you my first need is that they should figure out how to pay me . . . they don’t expect me to do this for free,â€ prosecutors said.
Undercover FBI agents left $2,000 in cash in a letter in a designated post office box for Nozette on Sept. 10, prosecutors said.
“In the letter, the FBI asked Nozette to answer a list of questions concerning U.S. satellite information,” prosecutors said. “The serial numbers of the bills were recorded. Nozette retrieved the questions and the money from the post office the same day.”
On Sept. 16, agents captured Nozette on videotape as he left “a manila envelope in the designated post office box in the District of Columbia. The next day, FBI agents retrieved the sealed manila envelope that Nozette had dropped off and found, among other things, a one-page document containing answers to the questions posed by the undercover agents and an encrypted computer thumb drive.
“One of answers provided by Nozette contained information classified as Secret, which concerned capabilities of a prototype overhead collection system,” prosecutors said. “In addition, Nozette allegedly offered to reveal additional classified information that directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, and other major weapons systems.”
On Sept. 17,Â undercover FBI agents left a second letter in the post office box for Nozette.
“In the letter, the FBI asked Nozette to answer another list of questions concerning U.S. satellite information,” prosecutors said. “The FBI also left a cash payment of $9,000 in the post office box.”
Nozette retrieved the questions and the cash from the post office box later that same day, prosecutors said.
On Oct 1, undercover agents videotaped Nozette “leaving a manila envelope in the post office box,” prosecutors said. “Later that day, FBI agents retrieved the manila envelope left by Nozette and found a second set of answers from him. The answers contained information classified as both Top Secret and Secret that concerned U.S. satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy.”