LRO, Chandrayaan-1 Scientist Arrested for Espionage

Times are tough, but you have to wonder what this guy was thinking. Stewart David Nozette, 52, who was involved in the recent discovery of water on the Moon by the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has been arrested for espionage for allegedly trying to sell details of US missile detection satellites in exchange for cash. Nozette was attempting to sell classified information to a person who he believed was an Israeli intelligence officer. Nozette is a fairly prominent scientist who helped conceive the 1994 Clementine mission to the Moon, and currently is a co-investigator on Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Moon mission, and on an instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

According to a 16th October FBI affidavit, Nozette was contacted last month by an undercover officer posing as an agent working for the Israeli Intelligence Agency. Nozette agreed to accept money in exchange for his past access to top secret documents.

As former government physicist, allegedly Nozette worked for almost every military shop in the US government including the Air Force’s Phillips Laboratory, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Defense Advanced Research Project’s Administration (DARPA). He also served on president George H. W. Bush’s space council and worked with NASA.

This isn’t the first time Nozette has been in trouble with the government. According to press reports, a small non-profit Nozette ran came under investigation by NASA in 2006 for misusing funds to pay for utilities, three mortgages a tennis club membership.

But this time the charges are more serious.

According to the Nature Blog, Nozette has worked for with Israeli contacts previously. The FBI affidavit says that between 1998 and 2008, an Israeli aerospace company “wholly owned by the Government of the State of Israel” paid Nozette some $225,000. “I thought I was working for you already,” Nozette told the agent in a transcript reproduced in the affidavit. “I mean that’s what I always thought, the [foreign company] was just a front.”

In September and October, Nozette allegedly provided details of a “prototype overhead collection system” to the FBI agent in exchange for cash payments of $2,000 and $9,000 dollars. He will appear later today in United States District court for the District of Columbia to face a single charge of attempted espionage.

Sources: Nature Blog, NDTV

9 Replies to “LRO, Chandrayaan-1 Scientist Arrested for Espionage”

  1. The previous legal problems explain why he no longer has a clearance. Let’s hope anything he did sell, is out of date and was classified no higher than “secret”.
    Although, what really bothers me, is just what did he do to earn $225,000 over 10 years.

    I’m sure he’ll spend a good 15 years in Kansas for his betrayal (in this case…. atttempted betrayal). Although, I would like to see him get a lot worse.

  2. Yeah, I though that sounded cheap as well.

    But at least he was only dealing with a friendly nation.


  3. For someone to sell out a nation for so cheap\ makes me wonder if he has a gambling or drug problem. However, his future home will not be friendly and I hope
    he is allowed to be out with the general prison population so he can get hit upside the head much unless he becomes……….
    (you get the idea!!!!!!!)

  4. I think it is absolutely classic that time and time again, Israel is caught spying on America. America have practically given Israel all of their defense (defense?) weapons systems and expertise, and continue to do so. They also unflinchingly support Israel in almost any situation that arises over there, short of bombing hospitals and schools and using banned weaponry on civilian populations like white phosphorous shells (oh, wait…). Why then are Israel PUSHING THEIR LUCK, and spying on their greatest ally?! You’re getting the tech for free anyway guys!

    PS, despite the little digs, I’m not trying to fire up another pointless Israel/Palestine debate – I’m simply saying – surely America would be saying “hey guys, we gave you the bomb, a crapload of other advanced technology and whatnot; you don’t actually really need to be spying on us…”

    Anyway – what a knob this guy is. Best job in the world, and all he’s interested in is lining his own pockets. Spy or no spy – that is a jail-able offense in itself.

  5. Interesting that this story comes on the heels of the arrest of a CERN researcher working on the LHC who was recently nabbed on terror-related charges.

  6. Astrofiend: “… I’m not trying to fire up another pointless Israel/Palestine debate …”

    Oh, yes, of course, you are not trying — wink, wink 😉

  7. How sad it is that we have come to accept that one of our so-called allies would (and probably is) engaged in spying on us. How sad that a scientist would sale out his country so cheap. If guilty, I hope he has a nice long term in prison to think about it.

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