Ex-Nasa scientist admits offering secrets to Israel

An accomplished former US government space scientist admitted in court on Wednesday that he had tried to sell classified information to Israel.

Investigators say that the undercover sting operation that trapped Stewart David Nozette may not have been launched if he had not beenevading taxes.

Nozette, who faces 13 years in prison, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted espionage, admitting that he tried to provide Israel with top-secret information about satellites, early-warning systems, ways of retaliating against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defence strategy.

Nozette had high-level security clearance for decades when he worked for the government on science and space projects at Nasa, the Energy Department and the National Space Council during President George Bush senior's time in the White House.

The 54-year-old also helped to develop a radar experiment that discovered water on the moon – a version of the satellite that was involved in the project is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Prosecutors and Nozette's lawyers agreed to the 13-year sentence, with credit for two years Nozette has spent behind bars since his arrest. US District Judge Paul Friedman said that he was prepared to accept the deal, proving the defendant cooperates with prosecutors.

Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, Nozette said that he understood the charge. He could have been sentenced to death had he been convicted of all four counts of attempted espionage that he faced.

Prosecutors say Nozette told an undercover agent posing as an Israeli spy that he already had passed classified information to Israel – but he was not charged with doing so.

"We do not have any information he passed on classified information," Ronald C. Machen Jr, US attorney for the District of Columbia said in an interview with reporters.

"We believe we thwarted that before it occurred."

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