By Shannon Najmabadi
Image credit: @occularinvasion.
Coming on the heels of the arrest of a former NASA contractor convicted of espionage, US defense contractor Benjamin Bishop has been accused of giving classified information to his 27-year-old Chinese girlfriend.
Speaking to reporters after a March 22 detention hearing, Bishop’s attorney said that “it’s not an espionage case, it’s a case about love,” according to the Associated Press.
Bishop, 59, was arrested about one week ago and was charged with “communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it” and “of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans,” reported the Associated Press. The charge referring to the unlawful retention of national defense documents relates to accusations that Bishop improperly kept “classified information at his home – an unsecured and unauthorized location,” according to CBS News.
An Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, Bishop was working at the US Pacific Command as a contractor at the time of his arrest. After Bishop was formally presented with charges, Bervar told reporters, “Col. Bishop has served this country for 29 years. He would never do anything to harm the United States,” according to CBS News.
“An FBI affidavit alleges Bishop gave his girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defenses and other topics through emails and telephone calls,” said the Associated Press.
However, Bervar states that “there was no evidence that classified information was given to China or to any foreign country,” and that Bishop “was in love with the 27-year-old woman,” according to the Associated Press. While Bervar has not yet been given access to see evidence in the case, he said that the criminal complaint and the FBI’s affidavit don’t implicate the woman as an employee of the Chinese government or indicate that the information Bishop gave her was passed along to the Chinese government, reported the Associated Press.
The girlfriend – who is living in the US on a student visa – has not been arrested and has remained unnamed by authorities, identified in court documents as “Person 1,” according to the Associated Press.
CBS News reports that the criminal complaint unsealed last Monday states that Bishop met the woman at an international defense conference in Hawaii and began a romantic relationship with her in June 2011. According to the Associated Press, Bishop’s security clearance required him to tell the government about “his contact with the woman” as she is “a foreign national.” His failure to do so was a violation of “security oaths he signed,” said the Associated Press, paraphrasing Assistant US Attorney Ken Sorenson’s arguments.
However, while the woman told Bervar she passed a government polygraph test, the affidavit alleges the woman may have attended the Hawaii conference, “specifically to target people like [Bishop] with access to classified information,” reported the Associated Press.
At a hearing on Friday, the “judge set another hearing for Monday to give the prosecution more time to present more evidence about why Bishop might pose a danger to the community,” reported the Associated Press.