– Bishop had access to “top secret” information on efforts to defend against a ballistic missile attack from North Korea
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 1:25am
A civilian US defence contractor accused of giving military secrets to a Chinese girlfriend half his age will be entering a guilty plea, according to his attorney.
Benjamin Bishop was expected to plead guilty in federal court today to one count of transmitting national defence information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defence documents and plans.
Bishop, 60, was arrested in March last year at the headquarters of the US Pacific Command, where he worked.
A document for the plea agreement, filed on Tuesday, said Bishop e-mailed his girlfriend classified information on joint training and planning sessions between the US and South Korea.
It said Bishop had classified documents at his Hawaii home, including one titled “US Department of Defence China Strategy”, another on US force posture in Asia and the Pacific and a US Pacific Command joint intelligence operations centre special report.
An FBI affidavit last year alleged the then-59-year-old gave his 27-year-old girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defences and other topics.
His attorney, Birney Bervar, has said the two were in love and that the case was about love and not espionage.
Bishop has been in federal detention in Honolulu for the majority of time since his arrest in March last year.
US district court judge Leslie Kobayashi allowed him to move to a halfway house in June. A magistrate ordered him back to jail in December after he violated the terms of his release by e-mailing his girlfriend and writing a letter to her.
The FBI alleged Bishop and the woman, now 28, started an intimate, romantic relationship in June 2011. The prosecution said she was a graduate student and that she and Bishop were having an extramarital affair.
Utah state records show Bishop was married until 2012.
The FBI’s affidavit alleged the woman might have attended an international defence conference in Hawaii, where she initially met Bishop, specifically to target people like Bishop who had access to classified information.
Authorities have not released her identity or whereabouts. They also have not said publicly whether they believed she was working for the Chinese government.
She was living in the US as a student on a J-1 visa, according to the FBI.
Defendants must normally be indicted within a month of their arrest. Bishop’s defence team waived the deadline in exchange for an opportunity to view the prosecution’s evidence, much of which is classified.
Bishop, who is a lieutenant colonel in the US army reserve, worked in the field of cyberdefence at Pacific Command from May 2011 until his arrest. Prior to that, he helped develop Pacific Command strategy and policy.
Bishop was familiar with the Pacific Command’s highest priority capability gaps, the command’s chief of staff, Major General Anthony Crutchfield, said in a declaration filed in support of the prosecution’s motion to have him detained without bail.
From 2010 to 2012, Bishop had access to “top secret” information on efforts to defend against a ballistic missile attack from North Korea, he said.