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Bail hearing set for defense contractor accused of espionage

By Audrey McAvoy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:43 a.m. HST, Mar 25, 2013

A federal judge plans to hear more evidence today about whether a defense contractor accused of giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend should stay in custody while awaiting trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi scheduled a hearing to give prosecutors an opportunity to present more evidence on why Benjamin Bishop, 59, should remain in detention.

Bishop is charged with 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.

Federal investigators say he gave his girlfriend, a 27-year-old Chinese national studying in the U.S., classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defenses and other topics through emails and telephone calls.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson told Puglisi at a hearing Friday that there's a danger Bishop would divulge classified information if he is released.

But Puglisi said he was having difficulty understanding why the danger existed, because Bishop has been fired and no longer has access to secret documents.

The judge said there was no evidence Bishop has a hidden thumb drive or files with classified information that he could leak if he were released before trial.

Puglisi said he wanted to hear specific information about Bishop's potential for divulging secrets.

Sorenson told the judge Bishop spent years immersed in classified information and his "mind is populated with national security information."

He argued that Bishop can't be trusted in part because he violated security oaths by failing to tell the government about his contact with the woman. Bishop's security clearance required him to report contact with her because she's a foreign national.

Bishop's attorney, Birney Bervar, argued that prosecutors were trying to lock up Bishop's mind.

Bishop was a contractor at the U.S. Pacific Command at the time of the alleged leaks. He was working in a department that develops plans to deter potential U.S. adversaries when the FBI alleges he and the woman started an intimate, romantic relationship in June 2011.

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