Accused Spy Stewart Nozette

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Stewart David Nozette at a 1996 Pentagon press briefing about the discovery of water on the moon

For some cowboys, space just isn't enough. Stewart David Nozette, who was arrested on Oct. 19 on attempted espionage charges, was a respected U.S. scientist who had worked on the Star Wars missile-shield effort and helped discover water on the moon. But around 2006 or so, investigators became suspicious that Nozette was secretly working for a foreign government, and in September they launched a sting: an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer asked the 52-year-old to provide sensitive material. He allegedly coughed up a treasure trove of top secret information about U.S. early-warning systems, satellites, communications intelligence and military and defense strategy. If the high-flying scientist was seeking adventure, it ends here: if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Fast facts:
• Born May 20, 1957, in Chicago, according to an affidavit by FBI agent Leslie Martell supporting the criminal complaint. Grew up in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood.

• Originally planned to go to medical school, but grew interested in space exploration as a career during high school in the early 1970s through reading the works of the American physicist Gerard K. O'Neill.

• Earned a B.S. in geosciences with honors and distinction from the University of Arizona in 1979.

• Earned a Ph.D. in planetary science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983.

• In 1989 and 1990, worked for the White House's National Space Council.

• Worked from 1991 to 1994 on the Clementine Mission, which helped discover water on the south pole of the moon.

• Was one of the National Space Society's 25 Young Space Pioneers for 1994 and the recipient of the National Space Society 1994 Award for Achievement in Science and Engineering.

• Designed technology at the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1990 to 1999.

• From 1998 to 2008, worked as a technical consultant for an Israeli-owned aerospace company, according to the affidavit.

• Served as president of the nonprofit Alliance for Competitive Technology. From 2000 to 2006, according to the affidavit, was repeatedly tapped to develop technology for the U.S. government.

• From about 1989 to 2006, held security clearances as high as top secret, with regular access to classified U.S. defense information and documents.

• On Jan. 6, 2009, while already under government investigation, flew from Washington's Dulles International Airport to an unnamed foreign country, according to the affidavit. Security inspectors found two small computer "thumb" drives in his luggage. When he returned three weeks later, U.S. agents searched his luggage again and, according to the affidavit, did not find the drives.

• Has performed research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va., and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

• Currently resides in Chevy Chase, Md.

• Enjoyed flying and scuba diving as a younger man; has said he enjoys cooking and listening to the Grateful Dead.

Quotes from:

"I thought I was working for you already. I mean, that's what I always thought. [The foreign company] was just a front."
— Allegedly responding to an undercover FBI agent's request that he work for Israeli intelligence by saying that he thought he already was (Conversation dated Sept. 3, 2009, according to the affidavit)

"Don't expect me to do this for free."
— Allegedly telling an undercover FBI agent who he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer that he expected payment for his services (Conversation dated Sept. 4, 2009, according to the affidavit)

Quotes about:

"The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation's secrets for profit."
— David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security (Statement, Oct. 19, 2009)

"To my knowledge, he was a dedicated scientist whose manner would give you no clue he was a spy. He was a very solid scientist."
— Craig Covault, editor at large for, who interviewed Nozette multiple times during his 36 years covering the aerospace industry (the Washington Times, Oct. 20, 2009)