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FBI: Alleged spy wannabe asked for Israeli citizenship

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A former Pentagon contractor facing charges of attempting to spy for Israel allegedly sought Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Maryland, allegedly told an FBI agent claiming to be an Israeli agent that he had access to U.S. satellite information and once had held top security clearances, according to an FBI complaint released Monday.

Nozette’s most sensitive position appears to have been as a contractor working from 2000 to 2006 for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The complaint describes the agency’s mission as maintaining "the technological superiority of the U.S. military and to prevent technological surprise from harming our national security."

The complaint says Nozette was employed as a technical consultant for Israel Aerospace Industries, the government owned aerospace company, between 1998 and 2008.

"Approximately once a month, representatives of the aerospace company proposed questions, or taskings, to Nozette," the complaint says. "Nozette answered the aerospace company’s questions and, in return, Nozette received regular payments from the company, totaling $225,000." It "does not allege that the Government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under the laws of the United States."

The complaint alleges that Nozette traveled to a country that is not Israel — "foreign country A" — in January of this year carrying two computer thumb drives and returned without them. Prior to that journey, Nozette allegedly told a colleague that should he face criminal charges on an unrelated matter, he could flee to Israel or to "foreign county A."

An FBI agent posing as a Mossad agent contacted Nozette in September. In conversations transcribed in the complaint, Nozette says he is surprised that Israel did not approach him to spy sooner and asks for an Israeli passport, saying he is entitled to Israeli citizenship because his parents are Jewish. He allegedly told the FBI agent that he had top security clearance until 2006 and could remember details that would be of use to Israel.

Senior government officials in Jerusalem said Israel does not gather intelligence nor is it involved in any espionage activities in friendly states, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

Nozette is due to appear Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Washington.

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