Stewart David Nozette, a U.S. scientist, was arrested on Monday following a sting operation in D.C. in which he allegedly attempted to transmit classified information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.

Nozette, 52, a scientist who helped develop a radar experiment credited with discovering the presence of water on the moon, appeared in U.S. District Court on Tuesday to hear criminal charges that have been filed against him. If convicted, Nozette could face life in prison.

Nozette worked as a member of the White House’s National Space Council from 1989 to 1990 and as a physicist for the Advanced Concepts Group of the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Through his nonprofit organization, the Alliance for Competitive Technology, Nozette entered into agreements with several U.S. government agencies to develop advanced technologies.

The Justice Department said that from 1989 to 2006, Nozette held top secret security clearances and had frequent access to classified information relating to national defense – including nuclear weapons technology.

An 18-page criminal complaint, which has been released by the Justice Department, says that the FBI began their investigation of Nozette when he acted as a technical adviser for an aerospace company owned by the Israeli government.

“Nozette answered the aerospace company’s questions, and in return, received regular payments from the company, totaling approximately $225,000,” the legal declaration released by the FBI said.

In January 2009, Nozette reportedly traveled to a foreign country carrying two computer hard disks that he did not have upon his return.

According to court documents, Nozette became the target of the undercover operation on Sept. 3, when he received contact from an FBI agent claiming to be a member of the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Nozette agreed to meet with the agent at a Washington hotel later that day. During their meeting at the hotel restaurant, Nozette allegedly said, “I don’t get recruited by Mossad every day. I knew this day would come by the way. . I just had a feeling.”

At the meeting, Nozette also expressed his previous attainment of top secret security clearances and access to U.S. satellite information, as well as his willingness to transmit information he had retained in memory in exchange for monetary compensation.

A week later, FBI agents left a $2,000 cash payment in a designated post office box along with a letter asking Nozette to answer a series of questions regarding U.S. satellite information. Nozette was later caught on camera returning a manila envelope which contained the answers on an encrypted thumb drive as well as suggestions of willingness to transmit more highly classified information regarding nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites and other major weapons systems. Agents then provided a second cash payment in the amount of $9,000 in exchange for more information regarding major elements of defense strategy.

The next court proceeding in the case is scheduled for Oct. 29.

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