Stewart David Nozette, a 54 year old former scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was sentenced to a 13-year prison sentence for attempted spying, as he admittedly tried to share classified data on U.S. satellites to Israel.
“I accept full responsibility for this error,” Mr. Nozette told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman.
The former NASA scientist was reportedly employed at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and did research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Virginia, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Bloomberg News reports.
In addition to the spying charges, Mr. Nozette was also ordered to pay $218,000 in restitution, stemming from a prior guilty plea in a tax-evasion case.
Mr. Nozette held a “top secret” security level clearance, and also handled sensitive information pertaining to the U.S. national defense.
“We are particularly proud that NASA OIG’s fraud investigation of Nozette, which began in 2006, served as the catalyst for further investigation and today’s outcome,” said Paul K. Martin, inspector general for NASA.
Mr. Nozette was originally arrested as part of an FBI undercover operation, where he attempted to sell U.S national security interests to an undercover FBI agent.
“Stewart Nozette’s greed exceeded his loyalty to our country,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen in a statement, “He wasted his talent and ruined his reputation by agreeing to sell national secrets to someone he believed was a foreign agent. His time in prison will provide him ample opportunity to reflect on his decision to betray the United States.”
The former NASA scientist reportedly helped lead to the discovery of water on the moon during his extensive career. To keep his knowledge from leaking out, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has placed stringent communications restrictions on Mr. Nozette while he is serving time in prison.
According to Bloomberg News, Israel has not been targeted by the U.S. for any wrongdoing in the matter.