Tuesday, October 20, 2009

U.S. Arrests Ex-NASA Scientist over Bid to Spy for Israel

al-Manar reports:

A top American scientist who once worked for the Pentagon and the US space agency NASA was arrested Monday and charged with attempted spying for Israel, the Department of Justice said.

The Justice Department said Stewart David 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.

In Tel Aviv, 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.

"The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation's secrets for profit," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

In addition to stints with NASA and the Department of Energy, Nozette worked at the White House on the National Space Council under then-president George H.W. Bush in 1989 and 1990.

"From 1989 through 2006, Nozette held security clearances as high as top secret and had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the US national defense," the Justice Department said.

He developed the Clementine biostatic 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.

In early September, Nozette received a phone call from a person "purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer, but who was in fact an undercover employee of the FBI," the DOJ said.

"Nozette met with the UCE (undercover employee) that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence," informing the agent that "he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to US satellite information."

The scientist offered to "answer questions about this information in exchange for money."
Over the next several weeks, Nozette and the undercover agent exchanged envelopes of money for answers to lists of questions about US satellite technology.

"In addition, Nozette allegedly offered to reveal additional classified information that directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, and other major weapons systems," DOJ said.

FBI agents retrieved a manila envelope left by Nozette in a designated location this month that "contained information classified as both top secret and secret that concerned US satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy."

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.
Commentary: The really interesting story here is that the FBI conducts sting operations posing as Mossad operatives. This, in the world of intelligence, is a very telling thing to do as it basically shows that the FBI is trying to distrupt such (real) efforts by the Israelis. I don't think that such an operation would be authorized without the knowledge of the White House and that, in turn, suggests to me that there are at least some elements in the current Administration who are trying to curb some of the most obnoxious operations of the Isarelis in the USA. Either that, or there is infighting inside the Mossad (again). Either way, it is worth keeping an eye on this story.