NASA scientist arrested for espionage denied bail


Stewart David Nozette (52), who was one of the principal investigators for the Chandrayan-I mission of ISRO and played a key role in finding water on the Moon, pleaded not guilty when he was produced before a court here yesterday.
But, the judge Deborah Robinson denied his bail application arguing that he was being considered as a flight risk and should remain in jail awaiting trial.

Nozette, who was indicted early this week on charges of selling classified US information to an undercover Israeli agent, faces death penalty.
He has been charged with two counts of attempted espionage for allegedly trying to sell secrets to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.

Nozette, who had made several trips to India in connection with his association with the Chandrayan-I mission, had served 16 years in sensitive position in various wings of the federal government including the White House, NASA and Energy Department, assisted in the development of the Clementine bi-static radar experiment which purportedly discovered water ice on the south pole of the moon.

According to the grand jury indictment, the information which Nozette tried to provide Israel included directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and other major elements of defense strategy.

The Washington Post in its recent report had said that Nozett had threatened to sell top US secretes to Israel or India, if the federal authorities tried to put him behind bar in a fraud case filed against him, in which he had pleaded guilty early this year.
However there is no mention to India in any of the affidavit or indictments, except for direct mentioning of Israel and an unnamed "Country A".

According to court papers filed Wednesday, Nozett travelled to 'Country A' from Dulles International Airport on January 6 this year, wherein a Transportation Security Agency Security Officer inspected his personal belongings and noted that he had two computer "thumb" drives in his possession.

On his return from the "foreign country A" on January 28, the custom officials conducted a thorough search of his baggage and carry-on luggage, but could not locate the thumb drives that he possessed when he had left the US, the court papers said.

The federal prosecutors Wednesday urged the court not to release him as there are higher chances of him fleeing the country or taking shelter into diplomatic missions in the US.

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