WASHINGTON—A Maryland scientist who once worked in varying capacities for the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been arrested for attempted espionage, David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, announced today.
A criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia charges Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, with attempted espionage for knowingly and willfully attempting to communicate, deliver, and transmit classified information relating to the national defense of the United States to an individual that Nozette believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer. The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws in this case.
Nozette was arrested earlier today by FBI agents and is expected to make his initial appearance tomorrow in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“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.
“Those who would put our nation’s defense secrets up for sale can expect to be vigorously prosecuted,” said Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “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.”
“The FBI is committed to protecting the nation’s classified information and pursuing those who attempt to profit from its release or sale,” said Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Nozette received a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from MIT in 1983, and worked at the White House on the National Space Council, Executive Office of the President, in 1989 and 1990. He developed the Clementine bi-static radar experiment that purportedly discovered water on the south pole of the moon. Nozette also worked at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from approximately 1990 to 1999 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 was also the President, Treasurer and Director of the Alliance for Competitive Technology (ACT), a non-profit corporation that he organized in March 1990. Between January 2000 and February 2006, Nozette, through his company ACT, entered into several agreements to develop advanced technology for the U.S. government. Nozette performed some of this research and development at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Virginia, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 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 U.S. national defense.
According to the affidavit, on Sept. 3, 2009, Nozette was contacted via telephone by an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer, but who was in fact an undercover employee of the FBI (UCE). During that call, Nozette agreed to meet with the UCE later that day at a hotel in Washington D.C. According to the affidavit, Nozette met with the UCE that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence.
Nozette allegedly informed the UCE that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information. Nozette also allegedly said that he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money. The UCE explained to Nozette that the Israeli intelligence agency, or “Mossad,” would arrange for a communication system so that Nozette could pass information to the Mossad in a post office box. Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information to the UCE and asked for an Israeli passport
According to the affidavit, Nozette and the UCE met again on Sept. 4, 2009, in the same hotel. During the meeting, Nozette allegedly informed the UCE that, although he no longer had legal access to any classified information at a U.S. government facility, he could, nonetheless, recall the classified information to which he had been granted access, indicating that it was all still in his head. In the meeting, Nozette allegedly asked when he could expect to receive his first payment, specifying that he preferred to receive cash amounts “under ten thousand” so he didn’t have to report it. At the conclusion of this meeting, Nozette allegedly informed the UCE, “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.”
On or about Sept. 10, 2009, undercover FBI agents left a letter in the designated post office box for Nozette. In the letter, the FBI asked Nozette to answer a list of questions concerning U.S. satellite information. The undercover agents also provided a $2,000 cash payment for Nozette. The serial numbers of the bills were recorded. Nozette retrieved the questions and the money from the post office the same day.
On or about Sept. 16, 2009, Nozette was captured on videotape leaving a manila envelope in the designated post office box in the District of Columbia. The next day, FBI agents retrieved the sealed manila envelope that Nozette had dropped off and found, among other things, a one-page document containing answers to the questions posed by the undercover agents and an encrypted computer thumb drive. One of answers provided by Nozette contained information classified as Secret, which concerned capabilities of a prototype overhead collection system. In addition, Nozette allegedly offered to reveal additional classified information that directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, and other major weapons systems.
Also on or about Sept. 17, 2009, undercover FBI agents left a second letter in the post office box for Nozette. In the letter, the FBI asked Nozette to answer another list of questions concerning U.S. satellite information. The FBI also left a cash payment of $9,000 in the post office box. Nozette allegedly retrieved the questions and the money from the post office box later that same day.
On or about October 1, 2009, Nozette was filmed on videotape leaving a manila envelope in the post office box. Later that day, FBI agents retrieved the manila envelope left by Nozette and found a second set of answers from him. The answers contained information classified as both Top Secret and Secret that concerned U.S. satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy.