Bail denied in military secrets leak to China


Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - Page 7

A US federal judge on Monday denied bail to a civilian defense contractor accused of giving military secrets to a Chinese girlfriend half his age, saying he poses a danger to national security.

US Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi ordered Benjamin Bishop, 59, to remain in custody while he awaits trial.

Puglisi cited a declaration made to the court on Monday by the US Pacific Command’s chief of staff, Major General Anthony Crutchfield, in making his decision.

The judge said Crutchfield made the case that Bishop would almost certainly be able to recall substantial amounts of classified information from memory and could divulge classified information that would harm national security.

Bishop is charged with one count of communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans.

Federal investigators say he gave his girlfriend, a 27-year-old Chinese studying in the US, classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defenses and other topics through e-mails and telephone calls.

The Army Reserve lieutenant colonel was working at the US Pacific Command when he was arrested on March 15.

Puglisi had asked prosecutors to explain how Bishop, if released on bail, might disclose military secrets when he’s been fired from his contractor’s position at the US Pacific Command and no longer has access to classified information.

Crutchfield’s declaration, which was submitted to the court on Monday, said Bishop had access to “top secret” information on the command’s efforts to defend against a ballistic missile attack from North Korea.

“Unauthorized release of this highly sensitive, classified information could cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security, undermining the value of this huge investment of national treasure,” Crutchfield said in his declaration.

Assistant US Attorney Ken Sorenson argued in documents submitted on Monday that there were no conditions that could reasonably assure Bishop will not divulge classified information if he’s released on bail.

“Nothing short of the security of the Pacific, and US forces in the Pacific, are placed at risk by the nature of the information known to this defendant,” he said.

Sorenson said Bishop told the girlfriend military secrets off the cuff, from memory, showing that there would still be a risk that Bishop would divulge military secrets even though he has been fired and no longer has access to classified documents.

Sorenson argued that electronic monitoring proposed by the defense would not be effective in an era when people can use “secret e-mail or Twitter accounts, covert Facebook identities or disposable cellphones” to communicate.

Sorenson said Bishop has shown he cannot be trusted in part because he violated security oaths by failing to tell the government about his contact with the woman. Bishop’s security clearance required him to report contact with her because she’s a foreign national.

Bishop’s attorney, Birney Bervar, said he was frustrated by the ruling.

“He’s being detained without bail based upon what’s in his mind, based upon his knowledge and what he knows,” Bervar said. “There’s no authority, case law, statutory or otherwise, to lock people up because of what they know, what’s in their mind.”