POSTED: 3:38 p.m. HST, Mar 18, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 9:28 p.m. HST, Mar 18, 2013
The federal government has charged a civilian defense employee with leaking classified information about nuclear weapons, early warning radar systems and other programs to a Chinese national with whom he had a romantic relationship.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former U.S. Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, was arrested Friday and made his initial court appearance today,
Bishop is charged with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense. If convicted, he faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
"Col. Bishop has served this country for 29 years. He would never do anything to harm the United States," Bishop's court-appointed attorney Birney Bervar told reporters after his client was formally presented with the charges.
Bishop has held a Top Secret security clearance since July 2002 and held access to Secure Compartmented Information from November 2002 to April 2012, said an affidavit filed in support of the charges.
The affidavit said Bishop has had a romantic relationship since June 2011 with a 27-year-old woman who is a citizen of the People’s Republic of China who is residing in the United States on a visa. They met in Hawaii during a conference regarding international military defense issues. The affidavit describes the woman only as “Person 1.”
From May through December 2012, Bishop willfully communicated classified national defense information on multiple occasions to Person 1, the affidavit said.
Information given to Person 1 included that relating to nuclear weapons, the planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems, the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments, and the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim, the affidavit said.
A court-authorized search of Bishop’s home in November turned up about 12 documents with classification markings at the Secret level. Bishop was not authorized to remove and retain those documents, the affidavit said.
Bishop hid his relationship with Person 1, despite a federal rule that people with security clearances disclose their contacts with foreign nationals, the affidavit said.
Bishop, a Kapolei resident, is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a hearing on whether he will remain in detention during the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.