Did a federal prosecutor just make the inflammatory accusation that top government scientist Stewart Nozette has admitted to giving classified information to the Israeli government?
By our reading of this AP story, that’s exactly what happened at a hearing in U.S. district court in Washington yesterday.
Nozette is accused of attempted espionage for allegedly selling classified information to an FBI employee posing as a Mossad agent. But the Feds have explicitly said that Israel is not accused of any wrongdoing.
At the end of the bond hearing yesterday, a magistrate judge ordered Nozette held without bail. Underscoring how seriously authorities are taking the case, Eric Holder “ordered special communications restrictions placed on him,” prosecutors said.
Check out this section at the bottom of the AP piece:
[Prosecutor Anthony] Asuncion said Nozette told the agent he had passed classified information to Israel in the past. Nozette is not charged with doing so.
“He told the agent that he had indeed communicated classified information,” Asuncion said. “He had admitted to the agent actual espionage.”
Nozette’s lawyer, John Kiyonaga, said there was no basis for that accusation, and noted the government’s charges don’t contain any such allegations. He also argued the video recordings were misleading because they left out significant parts of a longer conversation.
We’ve told you how Nozette held clearances as high as Top Secret for nearly 20 years, through 2006, on weapons and satellite projects. That included access to programs like “Timber Wind” — aiming to develop a nuclear-fueled rocket engine — described by one secrecy expert as “hyper-classified.” Prosecutors yesterday described him as a “walking safe deposit box of classified information.”
The complaint against Nozette alleges that he worked for an Israeli government aerospace firm — reportedly Israel Aerospace Industries — for 10 years and was paid $225,000. He also allegedly brought computer thumb drives to a country that has been identified as India.
According to the complaint, Nozette allegedly told the phony Mossad agent: “I thought I was working for you already. I mean that’s what I always thought, [the foreign company] was just a front.” But Nozette’s alleged claim of actual spying described by the prosecutor yesterday is not quoted in the complaint.
Late Update: Aaron Kaplowitz of the Israeli Embassy in Washington sends this along: “We’re not familiar with the case to provide a comment.”
I asked Kaplowitz if the Embassy planned on following up with the DOJ about the charge, and he responded: “This is not an issue with which the embassy is dealing.”
Late Late Update: Dean Boyd, spokesman in the DOJ’s National Security Division, tells TPMmuckraker the department doesn’t have anything to add to the prosecutor’s remarks. And he says: “As a matter of policy, complaints do not contain all information known to law enforcement.”