WASHINGTON – A scientist credited with helping discover evidence of water on the moon was arrested Monday on charges of attempting to pass along classified information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.
Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information, the Justice Department said.
Nozette was arrested by FBI agents and is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Washington today.
Nozette worked in varying jobs for the Energy Department, NASA and – in 1989 and 1990 – the National Space Council in the president’s office. He developed the Clementine bi-static radar experiment that is credited with discovering water on the south pole of the moon. He also worked at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he designed highly advanced technology, from approximately 1990 to 1999.
At Energy, Nozette held a special security clearance equivalent to the Defense Department’s top secret and “critical nuclear weapon design information” clearances. DOE clearances apply to access to information specifically relating to atomic or nuclear-related materials.
From 1998 to 2008, the complaint alleges, Nozette was a technical adviser for a consultant company that was wholly owned by the Israeli government. Nozette was paid about $225,000 over that period, papers say.
Then, in January of this year, Nozette allegedly traveled to another foreign country with two computer thumb drives and apparently did not return with them. Prosecutors also quote an unnamed colleague of Nozette who said the scientist said that if the U.S. government ever tried to put him in jail for an unrelated criminal offense, he would go to Israel or another foreign country and “tell them everything” he knows.
The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf violated U.S. law. In Jerusalem, Israeli government officials had no immediate comment.
The affidavit by FBI agent Leslie Martell said that on Sept. 3, Nozette received a telephone call from an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer. The caller was an undercover FBI agent.
Nozette agreed to meet with the agent later that day at a hotel in Washington and in the subsequent meeting the two discussed Nozette’s willingness to work for Israeli intelligence, the affidavit said.
Nozette allegedly informed the agent that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information, the affidavit said.
Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information and asked for an Israeli passport, the affidavit alleged.