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U.S. defense contractor arrested for passing secrets to Chinese ‘honeypot’
Question of the Day
A U.S. defense contractor who works in intelligence at the military's Pacific Command in Hawaii has been charged with passing classified national security information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman he was dating.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, is accused of sending the woman an email in May with information on Pacom's war plans, nuclear weapons and U.S. relations with international partners, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu and unsealed Monday.
The complaint goes on to allege that Mr. Bishop told the woman over the telephone in September about the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons and about the ability of the U.S. to detect other nations' short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
According to the complaint, Mr. Bishop met the woman at a conference in Hawaii on international military issues. The document does not specify when the conference was held, but it alleges the two began a sexual relationship in June 2011.
The complaint said the woman was living in the United States as a student on a J-1 visa, issued to foreigners for work- and study-based exchange programs. It did not say which institution she attended or where she is now.
It also did not state which defense contractor employs Mr. Bishop, and U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni did not answer any questions at a press event to announce the charges.
Mr. Bishop is charged with concealing his relationship with the woman, a breach of the terms of his security clearance, which requires him to report contact with foreign nationals.
Investigators who conducted a covert search of Mr. Bishop's home in the Honolulu suburb of Kapolei in November found 12 documents marked "secret" even though he was not authorized to keep classified papers at home, the complaint said.
Last month, the woman asked Mr. Bishop what Western countries knew about "the operation of a particular naval asset of People's Republic of China," the complaint said. Although the topic fell outside Mr. Bishop's regular work assignment, he researched the issue using open-source records and classified material on the topic, the complaint alleges.
Intelligence operations in which a younger sexual partner is used to seduce and suborn a target with access to secret information are called "honeypots" by espionage professionals. U.S. counterintelligence experts say the Chinese specialize in such operations.
In 2003, Katrina Leung, a naturalized Chinese-American, was indicted for national security offenses following a 20-year sexual affair with a senior FBI agent working on Chinese counterintelligence issues. The agent, James J. Smith, had recruited her as an intelligence asset and was her handler — which should have precluded their relationship. The charges against Ms. Leung eventually were dismissed on procedural grounds, but officials said at the time that her activities had tainted two decades' worth of U.S. intelligence about China.
Authorities arrested Mr. Bishop at Pacom headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii on Friday.
He faces one count of communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans.
Mr. Bishop's court-appointed attorney, Birney Bervar, said Mr. Bishop is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
"Col. Bishop has served this country for 29 years. He would never do anything to harm the United States," Mr. Bervar told reporters after Mr. Bishop was formally presented with the charges.
Mr. Bishop is scheduled to appear in court this week for a hearing on whether he will remain in detention during the case. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 1.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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