back to article Navy engineer gets 11 years for attempted espionage

A civilian US naval engineer has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for attempted espionage, after passing military technology secrets to an FBI undercover agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer. The Register can report that 36-year-old Mostafa Ahmed Awwad "took advantage of his position of trust within the Navy to …

  1. Scaffa

    "He then secreted an external hard drive and two passport photos inside the container."

    Please tell me they were in his backpack beforehand..

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, for FFS, all major powers have had the drawings for ages and have long finished the analysis of the weaknesses like the deck being unable to sustain thermal loading from F-35s and so on. By now the drawings have solely histo^Herical value.

    Yet another entrapment operation targeted at an idiot with the sole reason to justify keeping the budget at its obscene size.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Speaking of idiots....

      ...YOU must be one if you don't understand the violation of law in this incident. It doesn't matter who may or may not know what. What matters is this crim intentionally sold his security clearance and documents for money. If you can rationalize this as "entrapment" then you need to seek professional help for your affliction. Denial isn't a river in Egypt.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Speaking of idiots....

        It would be entrapment if the FBI went to this guy and asked him to spy for them, he says no, they persuade him. In short, it's entrapment if he would <u>not</u> have committed the crime without the FBI getting involved.

        On the other hand, if he offered to sell the plans then the FBI got involved, that's not entrapment.

        1. DavCrav

          Re: Speaking of idiots....

          "It would be entrapment if the FBI went to this guy and asked him to spy for them, he says no, they persuade him. In short, it's entrapment if he would <u>not</u> have committed the crime without the FBI getting involved.

          On the other hand, if he offered to sell the plans then the FBI got involved, that's not entrapment."

          The link in the article appears to suggest that he was minding his own business and the FBI contacted him, presumably because he has a foreign-sounding name.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Speaking of idiots....

            According to the linked article "Based on a joint [FBI and NCIS] investigation, an undercover FBI agent contacted Awwad ..." It is an assumption, with no particular justification, that the investigation consisted of no more than scanning the personnel files for "foreign-sounding" names, or even Middle-Eastern-sounding names. It is more likely that they were investigating either a report of Mr. Awwad's specific activities or something than came up in his background investigation.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

      Aircraft carriers are very delicate things and have little in the way of defenses compared to any other warship. They aren't designed for battle, they're built to be a floating hanger and airstrip. Because of this, they are usually surrounded by entire fleets of destroyers, cruisers, submarines, and other miscellaneous craft bristling with defense and offensive weapons. If an attacker manages to get weapons anywhere near the carrier, the battle is already lost, and the carrier has no recourse but to scuttle the ship and pray the enemy follows the Geneva Convention.

      1. x 7

        Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

        "Because of this, they are usually surrounded by entire fleets of destroyers, cruisers, submarines, and other miscellaneous craft bristling with defense and offensive weapons. "

        Unless its a British carrier, which will have to make do with a solitary Type 45 destroyer. If you're lucky.

        1. run_dmc

          Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

          But a Type 45 destroyer is an incredibly powerful vessel!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

            As a taxpayer I am comforted that the Royal Navy will keep their one billion quid each, and thus far too valuable to be risked, Type 45 specialist air defence destroyers with their relatively short range missiles safe under the protective umbrella of the carrier's far longer range combat air patrol. I just hope we don't upset any countries who own a submarine or two.

          2. x 7

            Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

            "But a Type 45 destroyer is an incredibly powerful vessel!"

            until its sunk - it has no effective defences against ballistic missiles, or against a "swarm" attack of cheap drones which would rapidly deplete its limited supply of boxed missiles. When that happens then game over for the T45 and any carrier its escorting.

        2. Vic

          Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

          Unless its a British carrier, which will have to make do with a solitary Type 45 destroyer. If you're lucky.

          No, that's completely unfair.

          Most military docks are full of weaponry, and all of that is available to defend all the vessels within them - including carriers.

          Vic.

      2. Adam 1

        Re: I don't know what Egypt would do with the plans anyway...

        > have little in the way of defenses compared to any other warship.

        Except those planes it carries I guess. I imagine the bigger reason for the escort would be because there are a lot of eggs in that basket, so a hit would be strategically much more significant than losing a sub or a destroyer.

  3. M7S

    Just curious,

    Is this espionage, or treason?

    I assumed the former is something done against another country than one's own, and that by virtue of being "in the navy" (to quote the song, just in time for it to bug you all weekend) and having access to NOFORN documents this person would be a US citizen and thus perhaps committing the latter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just curious,

      It's treason. Espionage is something you do to another country than your native/passport one.

      Handing over secrets of your own country to the benefit of a foreign nation (in this case Egypt) is treason.

      I don't think this chap is going to have a happy Xmas...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just curious,

        Handing over secrets of your own country to the benefit of a foreign nation (in this case Egypt) is treason.

        Actually it's just silly. Who (that doesn't already have them) would want the plans to make themselves a vastly over-budget, still-not-working aircraft carrier? The entire Egyptian defence budget is less than the cost of a single Ford class carrier.

        On further reflection, instead of villain or buffoon, maybe he was a true hero working for Uncle Sam. It'd be a huge win to have foreign nations copy the US (and British) strategy of bogging yourselves down building pointless, non-functional military assets that they can't afford.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just curious,

          Actually it's just silly. Who (that doesn't already have them) would want the plans to make themselves a vastly over-budget, still-not-working aircraft carrier? The entire Egyptian defence budget is less than the cost of a single Ford class carrier.

          Principle. It doesn't matter what it is, it's the fact that this is not his right to disclose. Full stop. It could be the latest mess menu for all that matters, if it's non-public (even if not protectively marked) he has no business disclosing/selling it.

          On further reflection, instead of villain or buffoon, maybe he was a true hero working for Uncle Sam.

          Nice try, but it doesn't work that way :). Besides, building stuff that is pointless is the whole idea. It legalises handing tax money over to someone who will then sponsor a political campaign, some people get paid to build yet another yacht, and a much smaller part of that money is used to keep some people building something they will have to discard later - and then do it again.

          If it worked, everyone would be out of work and out of pocket, and it would leave tax money in the kitty for horrible things like schools and hospitals (you know, the places where people get shot, and the places where they patch those people up) - can't have that..

          /cynic

      2. John Savard

        Re: Just curious,

        He did betray his country, but the legal definition of treason in the U.S. is somewhat narrower. A clause in the Constitution requires the country to be at war with another country before one can commit treason to that country's advantage.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just curious,

          A clause in the Constitution requires the country to be at war with another country before one can commit treason to that country's advantage.

          Thanks for that, it appears I was wrong then (didn't know about the "at war" condition). So it's still "regular" espionage then?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just curious,

      Get real, it's neither espionage nor treason... it's entrapment of poor sods.

      Undercover FBI Agent: Pssst.... do you want to earn $5,000,000. I just need a copy of these 10 year old plans you're wrapping your lunch in.

      US Navy Engineer: Naaa, not interested, that's only 20 years worth of earnings.

      Undercover FBI Agent: Ok, you're a tough customer. What do you say to $5,000,000 and a free KFC bucket.

      US Navy Engineer: Now you're talking !

      Undercover FBI Agent: Ah ah, got you filthy traitor scum !!!!

    3. GBE

      Re: Just curious,

      Is this espionage, or treason?

      That depends on whether Egypt is legally consider to be an "enemy" of the US and whether he actually gave aid to that "enemy". If Egypt is not considered an "enemy" then he can't be charged with treason. Also he _didn't_ actually give aid to Egypt -- he just thought he was. It's not clear to me that the constitution's narrow definition of "treason" includes _attempting_ to give aid to the enemy without actually doing so.

      A treason conviction also requires two eye witnesses.

      Espionage is a much broader offense which doesn't require actual aid to an actual enemy and doesn't require two eye witnesses.

  4. graeme leggett

    picture choice

    "Fatso" Johnson and "Taffy" Goldstein again, I'd have thought CPO Pertwee - a man who would sell his own grandmother - was closer to the mark.

    1. John Savard

      Re: picture choice

      Ah, but since Tenniel Evans voiced both "Taffy" Goldstein and CPO Ebenezer Pertwee, this was perhaps as close a picture as they could get.

      And, yes, not being British, I did have to Google this stuff. Originally, I thought a rejoinder to the effect that the Doctor is a very trusted individual, and thus the picture would be misunderstood, would be appropriate. However, as it happens, I also read that Jon Pertwee is alleged to have possibly been responsible for suggesting the idea of this radio comedy series.

      Ah, oops. Ebenezer Pertwee was one character, voiced by Tenniel Evans, but CPO Pertwee was a different character... voiced by Jon Pertwee.

  5. SpottedCow

    "At a later date, Awwad had travelled to a pre-arranged dead drop site hidden by "a secluded hiking trail" where he retrieved $3,000 from a concealed container disguised in a hole in the ground."

    Seriously? Three grand?

    You can't even buy a very good used motorcar for treason these days, it seems. Doesn't sound like much of a payoff when the alternative price is twenty years at Leavenworth.

  6. x 7

    whats the betting he never comes to trial, and instead vanishes into the system at Guantanamo?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      What's Guantanamo got to do with it? This is a US citizen they have bang to rights. There's no need for "special rendition" or any other type of cloak'n'dagger stuff here.

      1. x 7

        "What's Guantanamo got to do with it? This is a US citizen they have bang to rights. There's no need for "special rendition" or any other type of cloak'n'dagger stuff here."

        Nothing to do with special rendition or cloak'n'dagger

        He spied for a foreign nation - potentially for a terrorist organisation within that nation. The yanks don't have to send him to trial - they can simply treat him as an enemy combatant, put him in a cell and leave him to rot

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          enemy combatant

          I thought these don't exist anymore as per latest doctrine? Everyone in the World of USA is a Staatsfeind open for presidentially approved droning unless shown not guilty, possibly posthumously.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Awwad has been sentenced to 132 months in prison. That means either that he has been tried and convicted or, more likely, that he has plead guilty to the charge for which he was sentenced. He probably will be assigned to a medium security prison, in the US but possibly several thousand miles from any friends or family.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Commander, tear this apartment apart until you've found those plans..."

    Now we will never find the location of the single exhaust vent through which a torpedo can be fired into the reactor core...

  8. Brian Allan 1

    Meanwhile...

    Mostafa Ahmed Awwad... Hmm, Arabic sounding name, must be a spy!? Meanwhile an English sounding named person (Jones, Smith, Wilson, etc.) probably made the deal...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile...

      "Many Bothans died to bring us this information."

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