U.S. arrests ex-NASA scientist over bid to spy for Israel
Ex-NASA scientist arrested for trying to pass classified data to an informant posing as Mossad agent.
A former NASA scientist was arrested on Monday for offering to pass along classified information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.
Stewart David Nozette, who is credited with helping discover evidence of water on the moon, was arrested by federal authorities on Monday.
The Justice Department said Nozette, 52, of suburban Chevy Chase, Maryland, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information to an individual he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer.
The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf violated U.S. law.
In Jerusalem, where the story broke late at night, Israeli government officials had no immediate comment.
Nozette was arrested Monday by FBI agents. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Washington on Tuesday.
In an affidavit supporting the complaint that was unsealed Monday, FBI agent Leslie Martell said that on Sept. 3, Nozette received a telephone call from an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer. The caller was an undercover FBI agent.
Nozette agreed to meet with the agent later that day at a hotel in Washington and in the subsequent meeting the two discussed Nozette's willingness to work for Israeli intelligence.
Nozette allegedly informed the agent that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information, the affidavit said.
Nozette also was alleged to have said he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money. The affidavit said the agent explained that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, would arrange for a communication system so Nozette could pass on information in a post office box.
Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information and asked for an Israeli passport, the government alleged.
The affidavit then alleged this sequence of events:
* Sept. 4. Nozette and the agent met again in the same hotel. The scientist allegedly said that while he no longer had legal access to any classified information at a U.S. government facility, he could, nonetheless, recall classified information by memory. Nozette allegedly asked when he could expect to receive his first payment, saying he preferred cash amounts under ten thousand so he would not have to report it. (U.S. anti-money laundering laws require that all transactions of $10,000 or more must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, the tax collection agency.)
Nozette allegedly told the agent, "Well, 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."
* Sept. 10. Undercover FBI agents left a letter in the designated post office box, asking Nozette to answer a list of questions about U.S. satellite information. The agents provided a $2,000 cash payment. Serial numbers of the bills were recorded.
* Sept. 16. Nozette was captured on videotape leaving a manila envelope in the post office box. The next day, agents retrieved the sealed envelope and found, among other things, a one-page document containing answers to the questions and an encrypted computer thumb drive.
One answer contained information, classified as secret, that concerned capabilities of a prototype overhead collection system.
* Sept. 17. Agents left a second letter in the post office box with another list of questions about U.S. satellite information. The FBI also left a cash payment of $9,000. Nozette allegedly retrieved the questions and the money the same day.
* Oct. 1. Nozette was videotaped leaving a manila envelope in the post office box. FBI agents retrieved it and found a second set of answers. The responses contained information classified as both top secret and secret, involving U.S. satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy.
Nozette had worked in varying jobs for the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space, and in the National Space Council in the president's office in 1989 and 1990.
He developed the Clementine bistatic radar experiment that purportedly discovered water on the south pole of the moon. He worked from approximately 1990 to 1999 at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where he designed highly advanced technology.
At the Department of Energy, Nozette held a special security clearance equivalent to the Defense Department top secret and critical nuclear weapon design information clearances. Department of Energy clearances apply to access to information specifically relating to atomic or nuclear-related materials.
Nozette also held top offices at the Alliance for Competitive technology, a nonprofit corporation that he organized in March 1990. Between January 2000 and February 2006, Nozette, through his company, had several agreements to develop advanced technology for the U.S. government.
Since the arrest and conviction of Jonathan Pollard for spying for Israel, all Israeli officials, including intelligence officers, are instructed to avoid any activity that could be interpreted as information harvesting in the United States, and to reject any approach by American or other citizens who seek to volunteer and provide intelligence or espionage services for Israel.
In 2005, two former pro-Israel lobbyists with AIPAC were charged with conspiring to communicate national defense information to unauthorized personnel, in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. The indictment said the classified material included information about the al-Qaida terror network, the bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel, and U.S. policy in Iran.
The case against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman was eventually dropped.