A scientist who once worked on the Star Wars missile defense project and is credited with discovering the presence of water on the moon is being accused by federal prosecutors of attempting to sell top secret information to a foreign intelligence agency.
Stewart Nozette, 52, was arrested yesterday on charges of attempted espionage after he was allegedly caught trying to sell classified national defense information to someone he thought worked for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. If convicted, Nozette faces life in prison, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
Nozette is a Ph.D in Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served on the White House National Space Council in 1989 and 1990. He is credited with developing a radar experiment to look for water on the south pole of the moon, the DOJ said. Nozette worked at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory after his White House stint. During the nine years he worked there developing "highly advanced technology," Nozette held a special security clearance that gave him access to Top Secret and critical nuclear weapon design information.
He later established a non-profit organisation called the Alliance for Competitive Technology (ACT). Bedtween January 2000 and February 2006, Nozette's ACT entered into several agreements to develop advanced technology for the American government. The facilities that Nozette's company did work for included, the US Naval Research Laboratory and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Over the last decade, Nozette also consulted with an Israeli aerospace company that is wholly owned by the Israeli government.
Nozette's arrest yesterday stemmed from an FBI sting operation. An affidavit filed in connection with his arrest does not say what tipped federal authorities off to Nozette's alleged espionage activities. But it does mention a trip abroad that Nozette made during which he allegedly had in his possession two computer thumb-drives containing encrypted material. The thumb drives were apparently not with him when he returned.
According to the affidavit, Nozette was contacted by telephone in September by an FBI agent posing as a Mossad agent. During a later meeting between the two, Nozette allegedly agreed to work for Israeli intelligence in return for money.
On two separate occasions after that meeting, Nozette was allegedly videotaped dropping off large manila envelopes into a designated post office box in Washington. The envelopes contained an encrypted hard drive and pages of information that Nozette had provided in response to a series of questions posed by what he thought were Israeli agents.
The information that Nozette thought he was passing on in return for thousands of dollars in cash included secret and top secret data on satellite systems, early warning systems, means of defense and retaliation against large scale attack and nuclear weapons.