Md. scientist indicted on attempted espionage charge

By Del Quentin Wilber
Friday, October 23, 2009

A Chevy Chase scientist has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of attempted espionage, court records show.

FBI agents arrested Stewart D. Nozette on Monday on allegations that he tried to pass national secrets to the Israeli government in exchange for $11,000.

The government filed a one-count indictment against Nozette late Wednesday afternoon, court records show. He has a detention hearing scheduled for Oct. 29 in the District's federal court.

Nozette, 52, is accused of passing secrets to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer. The agent called Nozette in early September, and the scientist said he would be willing to work as a spy, authorities said.

Over the next few weeks, the agent paid Nozette $11,000 in cash, left in two installments in a D.C. post office box, authorities alleged. Nozette took the cash and written questions left by the FBI agent, authorities alleged. He returned, the FBI said, with envelopes containing classified information he recalled handling.

That included details about U.S. satellites, early-warning systems and defense strategy, the FBI wrote in court papers.

Spokesmen for the Israeli Embassy have declined to comment. The Justice Department stressed that the Israeli government has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Some time before taking an overseas trip in January, Nozette told a colleague he would flee the United States if it attempted to put him in jail for an unrelated offense. He told the colleague that he would then tell "everything" to the governments of an unidentified country or Israel, court records show.

Court records show that the NASA inspector general was looking into allegations that Nozette and his nonprofit consulting firm, Alliance for Competitive Technology, submitted false expense claims to the space agency in 2006. In February 2007, federal authorities searched his house and seized computer gear and a bong, records show.

A federal law enforcement official said that Nozette pleaded guilty to charges arising from the NASA inspector general's investigation. The official, who requested anonymity, declined to elaborate because the case is under seal in the District's federal court.

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