Scientist Nozette Called Brilliant, Greedy Traitor

03.13.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Scientist Stewart Nozette, who pleaded guilty to attempted espionage after offering to sell classified information to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Israeli intelligence officer, will be sentenced this month to a likely term of 156 months incarceration.

In a dismal sentencing memorandum this week, the government portrayed Nozette as both gifted and twisted.

“That defendant [Nozette] was by all accounts a brilliant scientist makes this crime especially troubling,” the memo stated.  “His statement to the undercover FBI agent that anything ‘that the U.S. has done in space I’ve seen’ was not hyperbole.”

“Defendant’s experience in the space arena was diverse and impressive.  His related accomplishments in the field were matched by few, if anyone else, on the planet.”

But “despite his exceedingly comfortable lifestyle in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he had expensive tastes which stretched him financially.  He thus chose to supplement his income unlawfully…. Defendant all too eagerly agreed to be a traitor to the United States and did so with obvious glee and with no apparent remorse or hesitation,” the memo said.

Dr. Nozette, whom I knew slightly years ago, “has a profound intellectual gift. One need only walk steps away from the courthouse to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution to view the prototype of the Clementine satellite, part of the Clementine bi-static radar experiment which purportedly discovered ice on the south pole of the moon, the concept for which defendant first sketched out in a burst of brilliance on a paper napkin.”

“He has squandered his considerable gift…. His legacy now, first and foremost, is not what is found within the Smithsonian Institution or within various Sensitive Compartmented Facilities throughout various agencies of the United States. His legacy is now what has occurred before this Court. He is someone who agreed to be a traitor to the United States. For all of the defense arguments about his state of mind at the time of the crime, he remains, at his core, a man willing to betray his country because of greed,” prosecutors told the court.

As a condition of his plea agreement, which lowered his sentence recommendation from 262 months to 156 months, Nozette was debriefed by law enforcement and intelligence officials.  But “the value of these debriefings was limited. Defendant provided no actionable information. There were times that defendant’s professed lack of recollection was baffling. There were other times when the FBI assessed that defendant gave uncooperative, less than complete, or untruthful responses. The Government, however, will not seek to hold defendant in breach of his plea agreement as, in the end, this plea results in an acceptable sentence, and saves the Government enormous resources.”

Nozette’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 21 in DC District Court.