Maryland Scientist Accused by U.S. of Trying to Spy for Israel
By Justin Blum
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- A Maryland scientist, whose work with U.S. defense, space and energy agencies had given him access to classified information, is under arrest on charges of attempting to spy for Israel.
A criminal complaint unsealed yesterday in Washington accuses Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, of attempted espionage. Nozette allegedly attempted to deliver U.S. defense secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer in exchange for money, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Nozette held security clearances as high as top secret and had access to information related to national defense, according to the Justice Department. He developed a radar experiment that purportedly discovered water on the south pole of the moon and designed “highly advanced” technology at the Energy Department, according to the statement.
“This 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,” said Channing D. Phillips, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
Nozette was arrested yesterday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Justice Department statement said he is expected to appear today in U.S. District Court in Washington. The government’s complaint doesn’t allege that Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed a crime.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Nozette worked at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and did research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Virginia, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, according to the Justice Department.
From November 1998 through January 2008, Nozette worked as a technical consultant for an aerospace company that was owned by the government of Israel. Once a month, he answered questions posed by the company in return for payments totaling about $225,000 over that period, according to a criminal complaint. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to name the company.
In January, Nozette traveled to an unnamed country carrying two computer thumb drives that were found in his baggage by an airport security inspector, according to the criminal complaint. When he returned to the U.S., he was searched by a customs officer who couldn’t locate the drives, the complaint said.
On Sept. 3, he was contacted by telephone by an individual claiming to be an Israeli intelligence officer, according to the Justice Department. That person was an undercover FBI agent. Nozette met with the agent and indicated his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence, the statement said.
In another meeting, Nozette allegedly told the agent that even though he no longer had access to classified information at a government facility, he could recall classified information, according to the statement. Nozette allegedly asked when he would receive his first payment.
“I don’t get recruited by Mossad every day,” Nozette allegedly told the FBI agent, referring to the Israeli intelligence agency, according to the criminal complaint. “I knew this day would come.”
Asked why, he said: “I just had a feeling,” according to the complaint.
Nozette allegedly provided answers to questions about U.S. satellite information and received a $2,000 cash payment, according to the statement. One of the answers provided information classified as secret, and he allegedly offered to reveal additional classified information on nuclear weapons, military spacecraft and other weapons systems, according to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department wasn’t immediately able to provide the name of a lawyer representing Nozette.
Nozette received a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in 1983 and worked at the White House on the National Space Council in 1989 and 1990, according to the Justice Department.
The NASA Web site includes a question-and-answer page with Nozette related to his research exploring the Lunar poles.