A Hawaiian defense contractor will serve more than seven years in prison for giving classified documents to a Chinese citizen, the Justice Department announced.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 60, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, gave classified information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman he was having a romantic relationship with, prosecutors said Wednesday, including information on U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities.
Bishop also gave the woman classified information on training and planning sessions between the U.S. and South Korea, prosecutors said.
“We remain steadfast and resolute in our pursuit of those who violate their sworn security agreements and divulge our nation’s secrets to foreign nationals and others,” said Florence Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii.
Investigators also discovered Bishop had taken a number of classified documents from his workplace at U.S. Pacific Command.
Those included the U.S. Armed Forces Defense Planning Guide 2014-2018; documents entitled the Department of Defense China Strategy, Optimizing U.S. Force Posture in the Asia-Pacific, and the 2010 Guidance for Employment of Force; and a classified photo of a Chinese naval asset the woman had specifically asked Bishop to retrieve.
Legal documents filed by the FBI showed that Bishop lied to security personnel that he was an active duty military member in order to gain access to the information on the naval asset.
“This is the second major espionage case prosecuted in the District of Hawaii, and is particularly troublesome because it involves the communication of classified information to a citizen of the People’s Republic of China,” Ms. Nakakuni said.
The Chinese woman was in the U.S. on a visa for her studies as a graduate student, the Justice Department said, but so far has not released any more information on her or her whereabouts.
Bishop met the woman at a conference about international military defense. Court documents filed by the FBI stated that agents believed the woman “may have been at the conference in order to target individuals such as Bishop who work with and have access to U.S. classified information.”
Bishop, who was sentenced to seven years and three months, will get about a year’s credit for time he has already spent in federal custody in Honolulu since his arrest in March 2013.
However, during his stay at a halfway house awaiting trial, he tried to contact his Chinese romantic partner despite being forbidden to do so.
“This makes the court question your ability to follow the law when it comes to this person,” U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi said in response to the incident.
Birney Bervar, Bishop’s defense attorney, argued he should be sentenced to time served.
“He made an error, a serious error in judgment over the love of a woman,” Mr. Bervar said. “As one of his friends said in a letter quoting Shakespeare, ‘he loved not wisely, but too well.’”
Bishop told the judge he was only trying to help a friend.
“In my efforts to help her, I went too far and made mistakes,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.