Pacific Command contractor charged in espionage case - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Pacific Command contractor charged in espionage case

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Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59 Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59
U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni
Birney Bervar Birney Bervar

A defense contractor living in Kapolei is accused of leaking U.S. military secrets. The Army reservist with a top secret security clearance allegedly shared classified data with his girlfriend who is a Chinese national. Court documents revealed that Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, met the 27-year-old in Hawaii at a conference on international military defense. Investigators said the woman may have been at the conference to target individuals who have access to classified information. According to sources, Bishop works for defense contractor Referentia Systems Incorporated at the U.S. Pacific Command.

"Mr. Bishop was arrested last Friday at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters here in Honolulu without any incident," said U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni.

According to an affidavit by an FBI special agent, Bishop leaked classified information to the woman who is living in the U.S. on a student visa. Bishop is accused of hiding their romantic relationship from the U.S. government. One email allegedly contained data on existing war plans, nuclear weapons, and relations with international partners. He is also accused of discussing detection of foreign ballistic missiles and the deployment of early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim.

"The arrest of Mr. Bishop is just the first step in what is going to be a long process, and we are actively continuing the investigation to determine the roles of all those involved in this case," Nakakuni said.

Bishop also allegedly kept about a dozen classified documents in his Kapolei home.

"As you can expect, this is devastating. Like I say, he has served his country honorably for 29 years and he maintains he would never do anything to intentionally harm the United States," said Bishop's attorney, Birney Bervar.

Bishop is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. He 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 national defense documents.

"We have to wait and see what the evidence is at this point. It's very early in the case," said Bervar.

During Bishop's initial appearance in federal court on Monday, a judge asked questions about his ability to retain counsel after seeing a financial affidavit.

"Having experience in these type of cases, espionage cases, they're very labor intensive, and he doesn't have enough money to fund an espionage defense. That's what I was telling the judge."

According to authorities, the unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to national security.

Bishop's detention hearing is set for Friday. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

His attorney also represented the last Hawaii man accused of espionage. Noshir Gowadia was convicted in 2010 of selling design secrets to China. He is now serving a 32 year sentence in federal prison.

"It's unusual, two espionage cases in the last 7 or 8 years out of Hawaii, but we do have a large defense presence here in Hawaii," said Bervar.

 

 

 

A Kapolei man is accused of leaking U.S. military secrets to a woman from China with whom he was romantically involved. The Army reservist was arrested on Friday and appeared in a federal courtroom on Monday for the espionage case.

Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, is a former Army officer who is now a civilian worker for Referentia Systems Incorporated, a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. He has a top secret security clearance.

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 national defense at his home.

According to authorities, he communicated classified data to a 27-year-old woman from the people's Republic of China on several occasions between May 2012 and December 2012. The woman is living in the U.S. on a student visa. The information related to nuclear weapons, detection of foreign ballistic missiles, and the deployment of early warning radar systems.

"The arrest of Mr. Bishop is just the first step in what is going to be a long process, and we are actively continuing the investigation to determine the roles of all those involved in this case," said U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni.

"This is devastating. Like I say, he has served his country honorably for 29 years and he maintains he would never do anything to intentionally harm the United States," said Bishop's attorney, Birney Bervar.

Investigators said Bishop became romantically involved with the woman after they met at a Hawaii conference on military defense.

Bishop is due back in court on Friday for a detention hearing. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

 

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