HONOLULU -- Federal authorities say a civilian defense contractor who works in intelligence at Pacific Command gave his Chinese girlfriend information on existing war plans and U.S. nuclear weapons.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, appeared in court Monday to face one count of communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans. He was arrested March 15 at Pacific Command headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii.
Bishop gave information to the woman, a 27-year-old Chinese national, after meeting her at a conference on international military defense issues in Hawaii, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Authorities said she was in the United States then on a student visa.
The identity and whereabouts of the woman were not disclosed. U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni didn't answer questions at a media briefing.
U.S. authorities say Bishop divulged the information in an email in May, and also in a phone call in September, when he told the woman about the deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems and about the ability of the United States to detect other nations' low- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Authorities allege that Bishop and the woman began a romantic relationship in June 2011. The woman was on a J-1 visa, for people in work- and study-based exchange programs. It was not clear what institution she attended.
Bishop is accused of hiding the relationship from the government, though his position and security clearance requires him to report contact with foreign nationals. A covert search of Bishop's home in Kapolei, a Honolulu suburb, in November found 12 individual documents marked "secret," though he's not authorized to keep classified papers at home, court documents 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," the complaint said, though the topic fell outside Bishop's work. He researched the issue using open source records and was observed collecting and reviewing classified information on the topic, the complaint said.