Nozette was an illustrious, MIT-educated scientist who had worked in a number of prestigious capacities during his more than two decades in the aerospace industries. He worked at the California Space Institute, taught at the University of Texas at Austin, was given membership and top security clearances as an employee at the National Space Council, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Nozette also spent time at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and is rumored to have sketched a plan on a napkin that enabled scientists in their discovery of water on the moon.
However, despite his professional achievements and scientific prowess, Nozette succumbed to the temptations of wealth and greed, sources have indicated. In 2005, authorities began an investigation that found Nozette had scammed the government of more than $200,000 to defray personal expenses. When they found classified information on Nozette’s computer while browsing his belongings during the fraud investigation, authorities grew uneasy and noted his work for Israel Aerospace Industries and an e-mail he allegedly sent in 2002 that indicated his interest in possibly trading covert materials.
In 2009, the FBI decided to launch a sting operation to determine whether Nozette could be trusted. An agent posed as a Mossad delegate, and met with Nozette at a Washington hotel on a few occasions to talk. Nozette expressed a willingness to exchange government and space secrets to the Israelis for cash, and did. According to news sources, he gave the undercover agent information about satellites, early-warning systems, and communications intelligence, among other exclusive, top-secret pieces of information.
Nozette pled guilty to charges in September, and a plea agreement was arranged at that time.
In the case that concluded Wednesday, the prosecution sought to portray Nozette as a brilliant man with a penchant for criminal activity. The defense, on the other hand, commiserated with its client and suggested he was exploited by federal forces at a highly vulnerable point in his career.
At the time that the sting operation was launched, Nozette was undergoing a highly stressful experience, the defense contended, while working undercover for the feds to reduce his sentence in association with the fraud case. He was inhibited from getting involved with important lunar work because of the fraud case, and, according to the defense, this factor, along with Nozette’s Jewish identity, pushed the scientist over the cliff. Born to a Jewish family in Chicago, Nozette had sympathized with Israeli interests, and the FBI capitalized on this vulnerability in the sting operation. Because of these factors, the defense lawyers said, the FBI sting operation should have been labeled as entrapment.
“Most astonishingly, the [undercover agent] and the [other] agents conducting the operation pushed and pushed after Dr. Nozette repeatedly said that he was happy to help the Mossad and Israel, a country his deceased father had fervently supported, but he could nevertheless not give them classified information,” the defense’s sentencing memorandum read. “But in their unbending determination to hit the bulls-eye they had placed on Dr. Nozette, the agents directly played on his heritage and his family’s known support of Israel and went out of their way to dangle the prospect of significant financial rewards before him.”
“The agents’ scheme worked—Dr. Nozette reached for the life ring they were ostensibly throwing him and as a result he lost his career, family, wealth, freedom and personal reputation,” the memorandum added.