Honolulu FIG Stops Espionage
Stealing Stealth Secrets
Honolulu FIG Yields Fruit
The B-2 stealth bomber is one of the most powerful weapons in our national defense arsenal. Its blend of special materials, engine design, and signature wing shape makes it extremely difficult to detect and track by radar. It can fly long distances at a stretch and unleash heavy barrages against fortified targets.
So when we learned that a former defense contractor was trying to sell stealth secrets to foreign governments, we immediately opened an investigation.
Special Agent Thatcher P. Mohajerin of the Honolulu counterintelligence squad, who took the lead on the case, soon realized he was going to need help analyzing mountains of evidence he gathered.
So he called on a powerful new weapon of our own—a Field Intelligence Group, or FIG, a team of intelligence analysts, special agents, language analysts, financial analysts, and others working in each of our 56 field offices who help pull together, analyze, and share intelligence locally and nationally.
Mohajerin contacted Special Agent Michael Gadsden, head of the Honolulu FIG, and explained the details of the case. “We realized the seriousness of the case and made it a priority,” said Gadsden. Gadsden assigned an intelligence analyst to work full-time with Mohajerin.
The analyst provided important skills for the case: technical experience in analyzing computer forensics and an ability as an attorney to know what kind of evidence is needed to link someone to a crime and what kinds of questions to ask in interviews. One of the hardest things to prove in an espionage case is that classified information has been illegally transmitted. That’s where the analyst was especially helpful, analyzing deleted documents from the suspect’s computer, including correspondence with people the suspect had contacted.
Agent Gadsden also provided additional resources from his FIG for the case. FIG analysts, for example, plowed through reams of financial data that Agent Mohajerin had collected, including bank statements, tax records, credit statements, and other business forms. The analysts made connections between transactions that might otherwise have been missed and that pointed the investigator in new and important directions.
The upshot? On October 26, we arrested Noshir S. Gowadia, who had worked for 18 years for the defense contractor that built the stealth bomber and helped develop its propulsion system. Gowadia was indicted on three counts of illegally transmitting national defense information and three counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act.
In the end, the FIG made a key difference. “We simply wouldn’t have had a case without it,” Mohajerin said.
But the case couldn’t have been made without the support and help of FBI Headquarters, either. It’s a great example of how a successful foreign counterintelligence case is run in the field with support from Washington. The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and other partners also provided extensive help in the case.
Resources: FBI Counterintelligence website
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.