Wednesday, March 21, 2012

U.S. space scientist gets 13 years on spy-for-Israel charges English

U.S. space scientist Stewart Nozette had been dealing with an undercover FBI agent in a sting operation. (File photo)
U.S. space scientist Stewart Nozette had been dealing with an undercover FBI agent in a sting operation. (File photo)
A leading U.S. space scientist was sentenced to 13 years in prison Wednesday for selling classified material to a U.S. undercover agent he thought was an Israeli spy, the Justice Department said.

Stewart Nozette, 54, entered a guilty plea in September as part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him a possible sentence of life in prison. His prison term was for charges of attempted espionage, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion.

Nozette agreed to provide classified information from his top-secret work as a government scientist after meeting an undercover FBI agent who persuaded him he was an agent for Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

“Happy to be of assistance,” Nozette told the agent, according to a Justice Department account of their first meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in September 2009.
In a second case covered by the sentence, Nozette pleaded guilty in January 2009 to fraud and tax charges stemming from more than $265,000 in false claims he submitted to the government.

Trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nozette had worked at the Pentagon, the Energy Department, the U.S. space agency NASA and the White House Space Council before starting a technology company with government contracts and high-level security clearances.

He allegedly told the undercover agent that while he no longer held top-secret clearances, “it’s all in my” head, pointing to his head, according to the Justice Department.

Over the following month and a half, Nozette allegedly used dead drops to deposit answers to questionnaires about classified programs on at least three occasions. And he took $10,000 in cash left by the FBI.

The classified information he provided “directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defense strategy,” the Justice Department said.

He also supplied information about research and development for an unidentified military weapon system.

After being paid a total of $225,000, Nozette allegedly demanded up to $2 million more in a final meeting with the undercover agent on Oct. 19, 2009.

“I gave you even in this first run, some of the most classified information that there is... I’ve sort of crossed the Rubicon,” he said at the time, according to court documents.

He was arrested the following day in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and has been in custody ever since.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman in Washington ordered that Nozette pay more than $217,000 in restitution to the government agencies he defrauded.

Neither Israel nor anyone acting on its behalf were charged with any offenses in the case.

“Stewart Nozette’s greed exceeded his loyalty to our country,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.

“He wasted his talent and ruined his reputation by agreeing to sell national secrets to someone he believed was a foreign agent. His time in prison will provide him ample opportunity to reflect on his decision to betray the United States.”

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