FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Charles Goodwin, special agent in charge at the FBI in Honolulu, addressed news media yesterday at the federal building on the espionage case involving Noshir Gowadia.
'Father' of the B-2
A just-released affidavit provides some insight into the mind of an admitted spy living on Maui
As far back as 1999, when he moved to Maui from New Mexico, Noshir S. Gowadia was marketing himself to foreign countries as the "father" of the classified technology that helps protect B-2 stealth bombers from heat-seeking missiles, according to an affidavit unsealed yesterday.
"I wanted to help this (sic) countries to further their self aircraft protection systems. My personal gain would be business," Gowadia said in a statement given to the FBI on Oct. 14, in which he admitted to knowingly disclosing top-secret information. "At that time, I knew it was wrong and I did it for the money."
In all, the 61-year-old Haiku resident -- who helped design the stealth bomber as a defense contractor for Northrop Corp. for 18 years -- is accused of disclosing the stealth's infrared-suppression secrets to representatives from eight foreign governments.
He told the FBI that he shared classified information "both verbally and in papers, computer presentations, letters and other methods ... to establish the technological credibility with the potential customers for future business."
Gowadia was charged Wednesday with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, which falls under federal espionage statutes. He is in federal custody in Honolulu and is set to make an appearance at a detention hearing today in federal court.
According to prosecutors, Gowadia faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Officials said he could face more charges in the future.
At a news conference yesterday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Goodwin read from a written statement and declined to answer questions on the investigation. "This is a very sensitive, ongoing investigation," he said.
Neither the affidavit nor Goodwin revealed which countries Gowadia allegedly sold secrets to, or whether they were allied or enemy nations. Goodwin did say that Gowadia was born in India and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Gowadia's wife, Cheryl, declined comment yesterday at the couple's home in Haiku.
The FBI searched Gowadia's home on Oct. 13, finding several classified documents from the engineer's days at Northrop and when he was a contract engineer in the 1990s at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
During the search, according to the affidavit, Gowadia denied having any classified material and "displayed a full understanding of his responsibilities with respect to the maintenance" of military secrets.
But a day later, when asked about the documents marked classified that were allegedly taken from his home, Gowadia submitted a written statement to the FBI in which he admitted to selling or disclosing classified information.
The FBI alleges that:
» On Oct. 23, 2002, Gowadia faxed a proposal to develop infrared-suppression technology on military aircraft to a representative in an unspecified foreign country. The information included in the document was classified at the "top secret" level and made specific mention of the classified defense system in the United States.
» In December 1999, Gowadia taught a course to foreigners in a second unspecified country, including information deemed "secret" that he had access to while working for Northrop and as a subcontractor for Los Alamos. Northrop representatives declined comment yesterday.
» On several other occasions, Gowadia provided "extensive amounts of classified information" to individuals in a third unspecified country while teaching a course on "low observable technology."
The affidavit did not say how classified information was allegedly disclosed to representatives from five other foreign countries. And it is unclear if Gowadia's course material for classes at U.S. universities was drawn from classified resources.
As recently as this spring, Gowadia co-taught a course at Purdue University as a visiting professor. He has also taught at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
The FBI said in the affidavit that it used documents and computers taken from Gowadia's home, along with electronic surveillance, to piece together the extent of the engineer's alleged criminal activity.
Gowadia "has marketed and disclosed United States military technology secrets related to the B-2 to foreign governments in order to 'assist' them in obtaining a higher level of military technology," wrote FBI Special Agent Thatcher Mohajerin in the affidavit.
The investigation "has also revealed that Gowadia has been rewarded financially for his efforts."
Gowadia's engineering contract business, N.S. Gowadia Inc., took in nearly $750,000 in gross receipts between 1999 and 2003. But prosecutors believe Gowadia's actual income was much higher. The investigation, according to the affidavit, showed Gowadia "likely" maintains several offshore bank accounts.
Defense analysts say the allegations against Gowadia are serious, but they cautioned against rushing to conclusions, given the government's problematic record in prosecuting these kinds of national security cases.
Philip Coyle, a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information and a former assistant secretary of defense, cited the Wen Ho Lee case at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1999. Lee was accused of stealing military secrets from the lab and funneling them to China.
But the government ended up dropping 59 felony counts of espionage against Lee, who pleaded guilty to a single count of improperly handling restricted data.
"He (Wen Ho Lee) did a stupid thing," Coyle said, "but it turns out what he actually did was nowhere near what the government first asserted."
There is also the high-profile case of Katrina Leung.
The California woman was accused of spying for China, but a federal judge dropped all charges against her in December after prosecutors admitted to illegally blocking a primary defense witness.
For years, Leung had gathered intelligence on the Chinese government for the FBI.
Gowadia, meanwhile, appeared to be open about the technology he is accused of peddling. A 2004 article in Jane's International Defense Review identified Gowadia as developing a system that would make military and civilian aircraft "virtually invulnerable to attack" from infrared-guided air defense systems.
Publicity like that could have turned the government on to him, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a private defense policy group. But it also raises the question about why he was not caught sooner, he said.
Noshir Sheriarji Gowadia
Background: Gowadia helped develop the B-2 stealth bomber while he was an engineer at Northrop Corp., and was instrumental in the creation of a defense system for heat-seeking missiles. After 18 years at Northrop, he went on to become a contract engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Accusation: One count of "willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it," which falls under federal espionage statutes.
Star-Bulletin writer Craig Gima contributed to this report.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 793(c)
An excerpt from the affidavit released yesterday, quoting the federal law Noshir S. Gowadia is accused of breaking:
"(W)hoever, having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both."