Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Enemy Within

I've been meaning to comment on this item, which appeared on the ABCNews website last Friday, as I was heading out for a weekend in the mountains.

A former Northrup engineer (and onetime employee of Los Alamos National Laboratories) is facing additional charges in connection with a federal indictment handed down last week. Noshir Gowadia was hit with a new indictment, charging that he tried to peddle U.S. defense secrets to Israel, Germany and Switzerland, as well as China. Gowadia was originally indicted in November 2005 on charges of passing classified information on the B-2 stealth bomber to the PRC. Gowaida worked as an engineer on the B-2 program at Northrup between 1968 and 1986, the period when the defense contractor developed the stealth bomber.

The new indictment also charges that Gowadia also helped the Chinese develop and test a new cruise missile between 2003 and 2005, traveling to the PRC on at least six occasions to assist with that project. Federal prosecutors indicate that Gowadia received at least $2 million from the Chinese for the information and assistance he provided. The former engineer has pleaded not guilty to the charges; his trial is scheduled to begin next summer.

Gowadia's indictment again illustrates the pervasive danger posed by China's intelligence collection efforts within the U.S. As outlined in Bill Gertz's excellent books Enemies, Betrayal, and The China Threat, as well as Edward Timperlake's Year of the Rat, the PRC government has spared no effort--or expense--to target needed technologies and information. The result has been a steady flow of critical technical data to the PRC, ranging from design information on the W-88 nuclear warhead, to MIRV technology for ICBMs (courtesy of the Loral-Hughes "deal," approved by the Clinton Administration in the mid-1990s), and, based on the Gowadia indictment, data on the B-2 and improved cruise missiles.

Court filings indicate that Gowadia worked with two Chinese men named Tommy Wong and Henri Nyo on these various "ventures." You don't have to be a counter-intelligence expert to realize that Wong and Nyo are PRC intelligence agents, among hundreds--perhaps thousands--at work inside the United States. Many are assigned to pursue specific technologies, and the individuals who can provide that information.

During their search of Gowadia's home, federal agents found more than 40 boxes and seven computer hard drives that contained classified information. Reading between the lines of the indictment, it looks like much of that data made its way to the PRC, causing potentially grave damage to our national security. I'm also struck by the dates of Gowadia's tenure at Northrup and Los Alamos; he left the defense contractor in the mid-1980s, and presumably, his access to classified B-2 information ended at that point. If the transfer of information didn't occur until years later, it suggests that Gowadia began planning his scheme years ago. On the other hand, there's a possibility that Gowadia was on the PRC payroll for decades, and may have passed the data while still a Northrup employee. Additionally, given Gowadia's apparent relationship with the PRC, it would be interesting to know if he ever had contact with another former Los Alamos employee named Wen Ho Lee.

1 comment:

omaus said...

From what I've picked up over the years I would say that the number of PRC/PRA agents is much more likely to be in the thousands.
This courtesy of policy choices made in the 90's.

I have to wonder how many are sleepers and how many caches there are now, among other things.