US Contractor Charged With Passing Nuclear Secrets To A Chinese Woman

khon/screenshotA U.S. defence contractor in Hawaii has been charged with passing classified information about nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems to a Chinese woman, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii.

Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a current civilian employee of a defence contractor at U.S. Pacific Command in Oahu, allegedly passed national defence secrets to a 27-year-old Chinese national with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The leaks — which allegedly took place on multiple occasions from May 2011 to December 2012 — involved classified information about nuclear weapons; the planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; the United States’ ability to detect foreign governments’ low- and medium-range ballistic missiles; and the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim.

The former U.S. Army officer has held a Top Secret security clearance since July 2002, and about a dozen individual documents marked “secret” level were found at his home even though he was not authorised to remove those documents and store them there. 

Bishop, who made is first court appearance on Monday, is charged with one count of wilfully communicating national defence information to a person not entitled to receive such information and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defence.

He faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

Tim Gaynor of Reuters notes that the U.S. and China are constantly spying on each other. Last year Hu Jintao, China’s president at the time, had to personally intervene in a case involving an aide to a vice minister at the ministry of state security who had allegedly been passing information to the CIA for years.

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