Wow

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.

A Good Word For The Obama Administration

It’s taken months, but they’ve finally done something praiseworthy, and never let it be said that I don’t give credit where it’s due:

the US Department of Justice finally applied some brains to the medical marijuana issue [AP | Politico]. They’re going to stop prosecuting sick people who are complying with their states’ laws, and use those resources for real problems instead. Yes, those laws do get abused by doctors who hand out free passes. On the other hand, they also get used to sensible benefit by terminally ill people, and how mean and stupid can you be to prosecute them? So, at last we have 2 synapses and a neuron wired up in DoJ. They still reserve the right to go after people who are using those laws as a cover for large-scale trafficking or other serious illegal activities. Which is also smart.

Not that it’s worth all the other damage being done to the nation and our national security, and it doesn’t go far enough, as Joe notes. I just hope that the policy will continue under whatever administration is in charge in 2013.

Lunar Uncertainty

…and Google Lunar X-Prize. The latest Lurio Report is out (subscription only). There’s a lot of good stuff in there (as usual), but I found this interesting and it was a new thought, at least to me (partly because I don’t pay much attention to GLXP):

…under the alternative exploration scenarios developed by the the Augustine group, lunar exploration and services demand from the government could be far lower than that assumed by the Futron study.

I think that for the most part the Augustine commission did a landmark job.

But the story above shows what happens as long as the political class feels it has to keep paying off the existing interest groups in and out of NASA, burning bucks on developing and operating high-overhead (instead of high practicality) systems, such as the Shuttle-derived heavy booster that is evidently in the cards, as discussed in a section below. From outside “the system” the obvious question is: Why don’t we go all the other way instead? Why not spend such money on multiple COTS/CRS-like projects and R&D items such as fuel depots, so that we can create a really sustainable and expandable system for exploration and utilization?

Of course, I understand the practical politics, and yes, it’s far better to make _some_ progress towards commercialization even when that must be “balanced” by larger and wasteful “protection money.” Mr.
Griffin left us with an unworkable exploration framework and a NASA with fictitious utility. Even new policy that just commits to elements that both “push” and “pull” to enable new markets for human access to Earth orbit would be very valuable – it alone is worth the chance that adequate private funding for the GLXP _might_ not be possible.

But it’s lousy to be left with that chance (see my item in Vol. 4, No. 16, “Lunar Water and the Google Lunar X-Prize”). Perhaps a combination of increasing private lunar market potential but with a smaller degree of NASA interest could ameliorate the situation. After all, the much discussed ‘flexible path’ option from the Augustine panel – seemingly getting close White House attention – would involve a lot of robotic exploration elements, admittedly distributed more widely than a lunar focus.

Go subscribe, and read the whole thing.

Hurricane Fidel

Some thoughts from someone who I hope will be Florida’s next Senator (though I no longer live there), and not just because he’ll knock out the oleaginous Charlie Crist.

[Update a while later]

Come for the disaster preparedness, stay for the totalitarianism:

I’m probably hitting my head against the wall here but, again, why is it acceptable for a neverending stream of Democratic politicians to make the trek to Cuba and kiss Fidel’s ring? Does having free health care* excuse a lengthy history of dragooning dissidents and gay people into prisons? Just last month Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marcos got a two-year prison sentence for getting drunk and ranting to a film crew about how widespread hunger is on the island. Somehow I doubt a visit to his prison cell is on Nagin’s itinerary.

I suspect that if Mao were still alive, they’d be doing the same thing with him. But Castro’s the best they have these days, short of Kim Jung Il. And what would they have said if the mayor of (say) Detroit, had gone to Chile to get advice from Pinochet on recovering an economy? He did, after all, have a lot better record of that than Castro does with disasters. And of course, that was Pinochet’s real crime — disappearing his enemies was just standard procedure for dictators, and they never seemed to have a problem with it coming from people like Fidel. It’s only when the enemies being disappeared are leftists, opposing free markets in their own nation, or being disappeared by a regime that supports free markets, that it’s a problem.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!