…fortunately it wasn’t to Egypt as he thought but to an Arabic-speaking undercover agent. Let’s hope the agent isn’t doing double-time too.
via Navy engineer tried to leak plans for new aircraft carrier to Egypt, U.S. says – The Washington Post.
A Naval engineer was charged Friday with trying to leak drawings of the military’s new aircraft carrier to the Egyptian government, not knowing that he was dealing with an undercover FBI agent.
Federal authorities alleged in court filings that Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, of Yorktown, Va., gave computer drawings of the USS Gerald R. Ford to an agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer and talked about where to shoot the vessel to sink it. He was charged with attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data and was ordered held after an initial appearance Friday in federal district court in Norfolk.
Awwad’s alleged plot was a startling one, potentially threatening the security of a carrier that officials have hailed as a technological marvel. The ship — which will weigh 100,000 tons and hold 4,660 staffers and 75 aircraft — is expected to cost $13 billion to complete. It is being built in Virginia.
Authorities alleged in court filings that Awwad, a civilian who worked in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, had a secret clearance and that some of the materials he provided to the undercover agent were not supposed to be released to non-U.S. citizens, or contained technical data that was subject to U.S. export laws. The court filings stated that Awwad was born in Saudi Arabia but had married a U.S. citizen in Cairo in 2007 and went about becoming a U.S. citizen then.
It is unclear why authorities first became concerned with Awwad, but in September, an undercover agent speaking in Arabic and identifying himself as “Yousef” from Washington, D.C., called the engineer and asked to meet at a park in Hampton, Va., according to a search warrant affidavit.
Awwad, who had been working at the Norfolk shipyard since February and had the secret clearance for only about a month, agreed to meet without asking for any more information, authorities alleged in the affidavit.
The events that transpired in the following months seem drawn from the pages of a spy novel. Awwad told the agent he wanted to use his Navy position to help give military technology to Egypt, according to the affidavit. The pair met at the Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, Va., and used a dead-drop location — a secret hole in the ground off a secluded hiking trail where each could leave materials for the other to find — to avoid law enforcement detection, according to the affidavit.
They also exchanged pay-as-you-go phones and agreed to code their e-mails. Awwad, for example, used the pseudonym “Cathy Jean” and the subject line “Sick” to indicate a problem, according to the affidavit. At one meeting, Awwad flashed a .45-caliber handgun, according to the affidavit.
Awwad described to the agent a plan he had to bug his computer so that he could copy restricted materials without drawing attention, according to the affidavit. But authorities allege he also used more old-fashioned methods. At one point, he asked the agent for money to buy a pinhole camera, and he was spotted in his office at the shipyard using what appeared to be a pocket camera to take photos of an aircraft carrier’s design schematics, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit describes at least 10 drawings of the USS Ford that Awwad gave to the undercover agent.
A spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls Industries, which is building the USS Ford, declined to comment for this story, referring inquiries to the Navy. A spokesman for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard said he was unable to comment immediately, and another Navy spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
No lawyer was listed for Awwad in court records, and relatives could not immediately be located.
More: Saudi-born US naval engineer allegedly gave undercover agent info on how to sink carrier
The affidavit says Awwad was born in Saudia Arabia and married a U.S. citizen in Cairo in 2007. After his marriage he took steps to become an American citizen.
The court papers also say the Navy hired Awwad to work in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s nuclear engineering and planning department in February and that he got a security clearance in August.
The FBI sting began in September when the undercover contacted Awwad. The court papers do not say why Awwad became a target.
During their first meeting in a park in Hampton, Va., Awwad explained to “Yousef” that he intended to use his position to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government, including but not limited to, the designs of the USS Gerald Ford nuclear aircraft carrier.
“Awwad agreed to conduct clandestine communications with the undercover FBI agent by email and unattributable telephones and to conduct ‘dead drops’ in a concealed location in the park,” the Justice Department said in a press release, cited by the Navy Times.
At the Oct. 9 meeting Awwad asked for $1,500 to buy a tiny camera to enable him to photograph restricted material around the shipyard, according to the affidavit.
On Oct. 23, Awwad retrieved $3,000 in cash left at the dead-drop location. He left behind a container with an external hard drive and two passport photos. The FBI later collected the containers.
The day after Thanksgiving Awwad was observed in his Navy office holding what appeared to be aircraft design schematics which he placed on the floor and photographed.
The Pilot said the USS Ford is the lead ship in the Navy’s new class of carriers. The Ford stands 25 stories high and is three football fields long.
Retired rear admiral Fred Metz, head of the Navy’s carrier and air station program until 1991, told the paper its bad enough for the schematics of any Navy vessel to be given away.
“But it’s worse to give away the Ford’s,” he said. “There is a whole lot of new technology on it we haven’t seen before.”
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