I’ve known Stu Nozette for over thirty years. This is a shock to me:

…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.

The scientist also allegedly said that he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money. The agent explained that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, would arrange for a communication system so Nozette could pass on information in a post office box.

Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information and asked for an Israeli passport, the affidavit alleged.

According to the court papers, Nozette and the undercover agent met soon afterward in the same hotel, where the scientist allegedly said that while he no longer had legal access to any classified information at a U.S. government facility, he could, nonetheless, recall classified information by memory. Nozette allegedly asked when he could expect to receive his first payment, saying he preferred cash amounts “under ten thousand” so he didn’t have to report it.

Nozette allegedly told the agent, “Well, I should tell you my first need is that they should figure out how to pay me … they don’t expect me to do this for free.”

I didn’t know he was Jewish. And maybe he’s not, but while I wouldn’t be shocked (in retrospect) to learn that he is, it seems more mercenary than ideological. I wonder if he was in financial trouble, or if something snapped after working in frustration for the government for three decades, with little progress in space. I mean, what “other foreign country”? It seems to be more anti-US than pro-Israel.

I hope it’s not true, but at least from the news reports, it’s pretty damning. I got an email from someone earlier tonight saying “First Courtney, now this,” but I think that this is a completely different class of…misjudgement, and I wouldn’t put them in the same box at all.

[Tuesday morning update]

Here’s the story at the WaPo.

[Mid-morning update]

NASA Watch has more links.

14 thoughts on “Wow”

  1. “…but at least from the news reports, it’s pretty damning.”

    Keep in mind the new reports thus far will have been largely shaped by the perse… uh, prosecution. The report I saw says this was entirely a sting – Israel was never actually involved. So, why did they decide to run a sting on Nozette in the first place? And how was it run? We Are All Federal Felons Now, thrice daily… Who has he mortally pissed off? Never trust the initial publicity on things like this. Facts will come out eventually, if you look for them. Reserve judgment.



  2. Rand, I’ve known him for about as long as you (he and I were both at MIT). Had only the most intermittent contact with him for some time.
    I heard the story from someone Monday afternoon, then on the radio national news late.

    Yes, I knew he was Jewish, but he always told me that he didn’t care about it. So this sounds, as you say, as if it could have been more mercenary than otherwise.

    On the other hand, who knows what can happen to a person’s sentiments over time. He was at New Space ’09 at Ames, and there he seemed a lot more ‘sober’, less of a ‘jokester’ than years ago.

    The three cases are totally unrelated, but Walt, Courtney and Stuart…it’s just bizarre.

  3. Nuclear secrets to Israel, at a time when Iran is said to be nearing production of nuclear weapons and its president has been saying for years now that he’d like to wipe Israel off the map.

    I think a lot of times people who say they don’t really care about something, turn out to really do.

  4. He knew something very interesting possibly related to Indian moon mission and LCROSS mission. He has nothing to lose now- cat’s out of the bag.

  5. You probably should be very careful about what you post about this on your blog Rand.

    In what respect? I know nothing more about it than has been reported, and I haven’t talked to Stuart in years.

  6. This article leaves out any direct contact Mr. Nozette had with the Bush Administration. It’s from Huffington, so I assumed it was about Bush, Bush supporters, Bush employees, Bush nominees, Bush something or others.

    If he wasn’t connected, how can he be guilty of anything?

    And now that he’s snared, he may have started selling secrets years ago under a whole different administration, right? Just because he got caught now, doesn’t mean he just started in the last administration.

    Or, am I off on a toot here, with respect to how high blame, connection, contact or responsibility goes when “X” crime is committed by “Y” federal employee under “Z” Administration?

  7. If he is Jewish, even if entirely unobservant, then why did he reportedly ask for an Israeli passport as part of the deal? He would have an automatic right to one under the Law of Return.

    That part of the story makes no sense.

  8. If he is Jewish, even if entirely unobservant, then why did he reportedly ask for an Israeli passport as part of the deal? He would have an automatic right to one under the Law of Return.

    One possibility is that he was unaware of that.

  9. Jim,
    …so being a scientist bestows all the worlds knowledge on said scientist? Hogwash. You’ve watched too many episodes of Big Bang Theory and Gilligan’s Island. Real scientists are smart, granted, but they don’t really know everything, like on TV or in movies.

    And how did you Google this?

    If you put in [ law of return ] then your search is bogus. If he didn’t know about that system, he wouldn’t have known to search for that term. I Googled [passport israel] and [israeli passport], the link you posted was nowhere to be found. I then added words like ‘acquire’…’apply for’…’getting’…and still, your link doesn’t pop up.

    I’m no scientist, but I’m smart enough to know that Google is not exact enough to get that on the first try. Or in 5 or 6 like I ran either for that matter.
    Rand said,
    “One possibility is that he was unaware of that.”

    Perhaps proving again he was not in touch with his “Jewishness”. I knew about that law from some friends who have older relatives who have retired to Israel. They are all Jewish. I’m not at all.

  10. there’s obviously more to this than what is mentioned in the media. I wonder if Barak Obama’s administration has something to do with this. At the same time a bizarre suicide has occured in Vienna with a British Nuclear Scientist .

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