Judge calls federal espionage accusation into doubt
UPDATE Star-Adv March 23, 2013: A federal judge said the case against a Camp Smith military intelligence defense contractor is not espionage and, unless the government has evidence of missing files that he could disclose while out on bail, questioned whether he is a danger to the community.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, is facing charges that he gave classified national security information to his 27-year-old girlfriend, a Chinese national in the United States on a student visa, and that he kept classified files in his Makakilo home.
A hearing on whether to grant Bishop bail was held Friday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi, who set another hearing for Monday….
Bervar agreed that the case is not one of espionage. He said there is no evidence that Bishop's girlfriend is a spy for the Chinese government and that she passed on any information to the Chinese or any other foreign government.
He said he spoke to the woman Thursday and said she has not been arrested and remains in the U.S.
Bervar declined to say where the woman is residing. He said the FBI searched her home Feb. 15, seized some items and questioned her. He said the woman remains in contact with the FBI and that she passed a government-administered polygraph test.
read … Espionage?
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Defense Contractor Charged in Hawaii with Communicating Classified Information
News Release from Honolulu FBI March 18, 2013
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former U.S. Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii, has been arrested on charges of communicating classified national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information.
The arrest and charges were announced by Florence T. Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii; John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Vida G. Bottom, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Honolulu Division; Dwight Clayton, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Hawaii Field Office; and U.S. Navy Captain Patrick McCarthy of USPACOM.
Bishop, a resident of Hawaii, was arrested Friday without incident at his workspace at USPACOM in Hawaii and made his initial appearance on Monday in federal court in Honolulu. The criminal complaint filed in the District of Hawaii charges him with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense. If convicted, he faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Bishop currently works as an employee of a defense contractor that has a contract with USPACOM, whose command is based in Oahu, Hawaii. Bishop has held a Top Secret security clearance since July 2002 and held access to Secure Compartmented Information from November 2002 to April 2012. As a person holding a Top Secret security clearance, Bishop has been subject to multiple security briefings on restrictions regarding the disclosure of classified national defense information, as well as the handling, marking and storage of such information.
According to the affidavit, between May 2011 through December 2012, Bishop willfully communicated classified national defense information on multiple occasions to Person 1, an individual not entitled to receive such information. The affidavit alleges that Person 1 is a 27-year-old female citizen of the People’s Republic of China who is residing in the United States on a visa and who does not possess, nor has ever possessed, a U.S. security clearance, and thus is not entitled to receive U.S. classified information.
According to the affidavit, Bishop and Person 1 originally met in Hawaii during a conference regarding international military defense issues. Since June 2011, Bishop and Person 1 have allegedly been involved in a romantic relationship. Despite a Defense Department directive requiring personnel, like Bishop, who maintain a U.S. security clearance to report to the U.S. government any contacts with foreign persons, Bishop has affirmatively hidden his relationship with Person 1 from U.S. government officials, the affidavit alleges.
The affidavit alleges that Bishop communicated information classified at the Secret level to Person 1 on several instances. According to the affidavit, the national defense information that Bishop passed to Person 1 included information relating to nuclear weapons; information on planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; information on the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments; and information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim.
The affidavit further alleges that a court-authorized search of Bishop’s residence in November 2012 revealed approximately 12 individual documents each with classification markings at the Secret level. Bishop’s residence is not an authorized location for the storage of classified information and Bishop was not authorized to remove and retain those documents.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Honolulu Division and the NCIS Hawaii Field Office in coordination with USPACOM and the U.S. Army. The prosecution is being handled by Kenneth Sorenson, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii, and Robert E. Wallace Jr., Senior Trial Attorney in the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.