By Daria Carmon

This week Stewart David Nozette, a noted onetime government scientist, pled guilty to one charge of attempted espionage, specifically endeavoring to turn over top secret information to Israel. The classified data encompassed satellites, early warning systems, and communications intelligence. Nozette took a plea deal whose terms included a 13 year prison sentence and the factoring in of the two years he was incarcerated following his arrest. A death sentence could have been imposed if he had been found guilty of the four counts of attempted espionage for which he stood accused.

Nozette held top level security clearance during a long career in government service spent at NASA, the Energy Department, and the National Space Council. His arrest came as a result of a FBI undercover sting operation that was prompted by an investigation of Nozette that had nothing to do with spying. He was suspected of tax evasion and fraud in conjunction with his administration of a nonprofit corporation called the Alliance for Competitive Technology, which had government contracts to develop advanced technology. A search of Nozette’s house uncovered top secret documents, not permitted since they were unsecured. Investigators also came across an email of his dating to 2002 that warned he might peddle classified data from a then current project to Israel or some other foreign government. Investigators did not reveal the recipient of the email but stated that the FBI determined to test Nozette’s intentions by means of an undercover operation.

The agents learned that he was amenable to passing on information for a price, motivated not only by the lure of monetary gain but a wish as well to leave the country and avoid the upcoming sentencing in the tax case. Nozette disclosed to an undercover agent impersonating an Israeli operative that he had previously given top secret data to Israel through consulting services he provided to the state-controlled Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. Evidence to substantiate this claim could not be found, and so no corresponding charge was made. During the course of the sting, Nozette consented to supply ongoing information via a post office box, under the impression it went to the Israeli spy agency Mossad, and payment consisting of money and an Israeli passport. He was paid $2000 and $9000 in September 2009 for written responses to questioning pertaining to American satellites. As regards the unrelated tax matter, the plea deal stipulated that any further time need not be served on the two counts of tax evasion to which Nozette pled guilty in January of 2009, because such prison sentence would run concurrent with the spying sentence.

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