Wannabe 'Israel Spy' Charged

A former NASA scientist has been arrested on charges of spying for Israel, but without allegations that the Israeli government was involved.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 10:27

Stewart Nozette
Stewart Nozette
Israel news photo: NASA.gov

A former NASA scientist has been arrested on charges of attempting to spy for Israel, but there were no allegations that the Israeli government was involved. FBI agents arrested Stewart David Nozette, 52, a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Monday. He will be arraigned Tuesday in Washington.

The criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Nozette attempted to pass classified information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence agent from the Mossad. The complaint charges that Nozette communicated, delivered and transmitted information tagged as Classified, Secret and Top Secret to an individual he believed to be a member of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

Nozette developed the Clementine bistatic radar experiment that was said to have discovered water on the south pole of the Earth's moon. He worked in a California laboratory for the Department of Energy from 1990 to 1999, and held a security clearance equivalent to top secret and critical nuclear weapon design information clearance at the Department of Defense. From 1989 to 1990, Nozette worked in various other jobs that included positions at the National Department of Aeronautics and Space, and in the National Space Council in the president's office. He also held a top position at the Alliance for Competitive Technology, which held agreements with the U.S. government to develop advanced technology.

The former scientist allegedly informed undercover FBI agent Leslie Martell on September 3, 2009 that in the past he had had top security clearance and had access to U.S. satellite information. According to an affidavit filed by Martell, Nozette allegedly said he would be willing to share this information in exchange for payment.

The affidavit further alleged that Nozette asked for an Israeli passport and said he would provide regular, continuing feeds of information.

On September 4, the agent met again with Nozette, who told him that he no longer had access to classified information but had it memorized. He also requested payments of under $10,000 in cash so that he would not have to report it to the Internal Revenue Service, reminding the agent, "They don't expect me to do this for free."

On September 10 undercover FBI agents dropped off a list of questions related to classified U.S. satellite information in a designated mail box at a post office, and a payment of $2,000 in cash. The serial numbers of the dollar bills were recorded by the FBI.

On September 16 Nozette was filmed by a hidden video camera depositing a sealed manila envelope into the post office box. When the agents picked up the envelope the next day, they found a one-page list of answers to their questions about the U.S. satellite information -- including one secret item -- an encrypted flash drive, and other items.

The next day FBI agents left another letter in the box with a second list of questions about U.S. satellite information, and a cash payment of $9,000. According to the affidavit, Nozette picked up the envelope the same day.

On October 1, Nozette was filmed allegedly dropping off the answers to the questions in a sealed manila envelope which he deposited in the post office box. These answers included Secret and Top Secret information. Among the information were items on early warning systems, communications intelligence, defense strategy, means of defense of retaliation against a large-scale attack and other information involving U.S. satellites.

Since the arrest and conviction of Jonathan Pollard on charges of spying for Israel more than 20 years ago, all Israeli officials have been instructed to avoid any activity that might be perceived as information gathering in the U.S. They have also been ordered to reject any approach by citizens -- U.S. or others -- who volunteer to provide intelligence or other information, or otherwise spy for Israel.