An ex-defense contractor has been arrested in an FBI undercover operation and charged with attempted espionage, the US Justice Department announced on Thursday.
John Murray Rowe Jr., 63, was arrested in the Midwestern state of South Dakota on Wednesday for trying to provide "classified national defense information" to the government of Russia, said a department statement.
Rowe – originally from the northeastern state of Massachusetts – had been employed for nearly four decades for multiple defense contractors, according to the criminal complaint.
As part of his duties, Rowe held various national security clearances "from secret to Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information," as well as worked on matters relating to US Air Force technology, among other things, the statement said.
"After committing a number of security violations and revealing a fervent interest in Russian affairs, including whether he could obtain a security clearance from the Russian government, Rowe was identified as a potential insider threat and terminated from employment," it added.
In an undercover operation, the FBI worked to "determine Rowe’s willingness" to communicate classified information to a foreign government.
Last March, the suspect met with an undercover FBI employee posing as an agent of Russia, and over the next eight months, he exchanged over 300 emails with the "purported Russian agent, confirming his willingness to work for the Russian government" and discussing his knowledge of classified information relating to US national security and military interests.
"If I can’t get a job here then I’ll go work for the other team," meaning Russia, Rowe said in one of his emails.
In another email, he disclosed secret national defense information concerning specific operating details of electronic countermeasure systems used by US military fighter jets, the statement said
Charged with attempting to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government, Rowe will make his initial court appearance on Friday. If convicted, the former defense contractor faces a maximum of life in prison.