US man accused of espionage worked on military plans to deter enemies

HONOLULU (AP) - A civilian US defence contractor accused of giving his Chinese girlfriend military secrets worked on developing military plans to deter potential US enemies when the two began their romance, according to his online professional profile and court documents.

The LinkedIn profile of Benjamin Bishop, 59, says he worked as a planner on "extended deterrence" at the US Pacific Command - the military's headquarters for Asia and the Pacific - for two years starting in May 2010.

It was during that time - in June 2011 - that he began the relationship with the 27-year-old woman who was in the United States on a student visa, according to an affidavit filed in US District Court in Hawaii last week.

Bishop was arrested on Friday at Pacific Command headquarters.

The LinkedIn profile says he moved to a different department last May to work on cybersecurity. During that month, the FBI claims, Bishop emailed military secrets to the woman, including war plans and information on nuclear weapons.

Several months later, he told the woman about the planned deployment of US strategic nuclear systems and the ability of the US to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of other nations, the affidavit alleges.

Bishop first met the woman at a conference on international military defence issues in Hawaii, the documents said.

The identity and whereabouts of the woman were not released, and US authorities have not said whether they believe she is working for the Chinese government.

"While she is not charged in the criminal complaint, the government is aware of her location and is continuing the investigation to determine the role of all involved," said a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The FBI declined further comment on Tuesday.

Along with being a civilian defence contractor, Bishop is a Special Forces lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve, according to his Army biography.

Mr Larry Wortzel, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said the allegations are not surprising or shocking. China has used sexual entrapment in the past, he said.

As an Army Reserve officer and defence contractor, Bishop would have had security briefings on the topic and would understand how sex can be used to target people for intelligence, Mr Wortzel said.

The alleged leak damages national security, he said, noting that nuclear-related information and all information on systems, deployments and strategy is classified.

The affidavit said the woman asked Bishop last month what western countries knew about "the operation of a particular naval asset of People's Republic of China", though the topic fell outside Bishop's regular work assignments.

He researched the issue using open source records and was observed collecting and reviewing classified information on the topic, the documents said.

Authorities allege that he intentionally hid his romance from the government, even though his position and security clearance require him to report contact with foreign nationals.

Bishop appeared in court on Monday to face 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.

Bishop's attorney Birney Bervar defended his client in brief remarks to reporters on Monday.

"Col. Bishop has served this country for 29 years. He would never do anything to harm the United States," Bervar said.

Bishop is scheduled to return to court Friday for a hearing on whether he will remain in detention during the case. A preliminary hearing is set for April 1.