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Thursday 24 August 2017
News updated at 2:47 AM IST

Spy's visit is a deep mystery

Last updated: 22 October, 2009
Bangalore, Oct 22, DH News Service: 1:22 IST

Steward Nozette visited ‘country A’ in January this year

The Israeli spy, Stewart David Nozette, arrested by the FBI last Monday for allegedly passing on classified American space, nuclear and other defence-related information, visited “country A” in January this year.


Dr Stewart Nozette AFP file photoNozette was a key member of the Mini-SAR, a NASA payload aboard Chandrayaan-I that provided evidence of the presence of water on the moon.

On his suspected trip to “country A”, Nozette is believed to have left behind two thumb drives, which he had on his person when he left Dulles International Airport, Washington, DC, in January, with unknown persons in that country.

This forms a part of the key charges that the FBI has drawn up against Nozette in a criminal complaint and affidavit filed by the agency’s special agent Leslie G Martell.

The 18-page complaint says: “On or about January 6, 2009, Nozette travelled to a different foreign country (foreign country A) via Dulles International Airport. Upon his departure from Dulles, a Transportation Security Agency Security Officer inspected Nozette’S personal belongings and noted that Nozette had two computer “thumb” drives in his possession.

“On or about January 28, 2009, upon his return to the United States from foreign country A, an officer for the United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) conducted a thorough search of Nozette’s baggage and carry-on luggage.

The CBP officer could not locate the thumb drives that had been in Nozette’s possession when he had left the US.”

Surely, the FBI would like to know in the course of its investigation and the forthcoming prosecution of Nozette with who he left the two thumb drives with during his visit to “country A”. Soon after Nozette’s arrest, ISRO scientific secretary A Bhaskarnarayana confirmed that Nozette visited ISRO’s establishments in Bangalore twice during the Chandrayaan project and interacted with scientists but had no access to critical scientific establishments during the visit. ISRO officials also said that strict security protocol was maintained to keep Nozette from accessing critical establishments.

When contacted, agency spokesperson S Satish said: “I have consulted the concerned department but that information cannot be divulged as it is classified.”

What makes ISRO now say that Nozette’s visit is classified when he was present at the time the Chandrayaan-I moon mission was launched? What makes his visit suddenly ‘classified?’ The FBI’s complaint goes on to say that “Prior to Nozette’s January 2009 travel to foreign country A, Nozette informed a colleague that if the United States government tried to “put him in jail” (based on an unrelated criminal offence) Nozettewould move from the United States to Israel or foreign country A, and “tell them everything” he knows.”

It is being assumed that Nozette was spying for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, although the affidavit pointedly notes that the ‘complaint does not allege that the Government of the State of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offence under the laws of the United States.’

The transcripts of the conversation (September 3, 2009) in the affidavit between Nozette and the undercover FBI officer posing as a Mossad agent, show that Nozette believed that he was being approached by Mossad for the first time. If that was the case, who was he passing information to, when he travelled back to the US, without the thumb drives in late January?

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