Moon scientist Stewart Nozette held as Israeli spy in FBI sting

October 21, 2009
Moon scientist Stewart Nozette held as Israeli spy in FBI sting

An American astrophysicist with top-level nuclear security clearances appeared in court yesterday after being arrested in an FBI sting and charged with trying to sell secrets to Israel.

Stewart Nozette, who helped to discover water on the Moon and spent six years at a top-secret defence technology agency, was lured into a trap by federal agents.

They posed as Israeli intelligence operatives who met him at a Washington hotel and agreed to pay him cash for classified papers.

“I don’t get recruited by Mossad every day,” Mr Nozette allegedly said, according to wiretaps. “I knew this day would come. I just had a feeling.”

He was arrested at his home in a leafy suburb of Washington on Monday and charged with attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information. He faces life in jail if convicted. Mr Nozette was an acclaimed government scientist who had worked for Nasa.

A member of the White House’s National Space Council under the first President Bush, he developed a radar experiment credited with finding water on the Moon and worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the nerve centre of US nuclear weapons research, in 1990-99.

He also thrived as a private consultant. According to court documents, he earned $225,000 (£137,500) as a consultant for Israel Aerospace Industries, a company owned by the Israeli Government.

A complaint filed at the US District Court in Washington does not accuse Israel of spying, and senior Israeli government officials insisted yesterday that their country did not conduct espionage activities in friendly states.

However, Mr Nozette’s work for Israel Aerospace Industries is listed in the case against him.

He was searched while leaving on a business trip to an unnamed country, when officials found two small external computer hard drives in his luggage. Searched again on his return, the hard drives were missing.

According to court papers, he was caught putting an encrypted hard-drive into a post office box.

Channing Phillips, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said: “This case reflects our firm resolve to hold accountable any individual who betrays the public trust by compromising our national security for his or her personal gain.”


Jonathan Pollard, an American former naval intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in 1985 for spying for Israel. He admitted handing the Israelis thousands of documents, photographs and other highly classified material over 18 months, receiving at least $45,000

Ben-ami Kadish, 85, an American former army engineer, was convicted last year of spying for Israel for 20 years under the same handler as Pollard Dongfan Chung was convicted in July of stealing trade secrets crucial to the US space programme through his work as an engineer at Boeing and Rockwell International. The judge said he had spied for China for 30 years. It was the first conviction for “economic spying”

Robert Chae-gon Kim, who worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence, was arrested in September 1996 and convicted of passing naval documents on North Korea to the South Koreans. He served seven years

Source: US Department of Defence; Changes in Espionage by Americans: 1947-2007 by Katherine L. Herbig; Times database