South Dakota defense contractor charged with attempting to sell state secrets

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would be prosecuting a man who, during his time working alongside the Air Force, attempted to sell sensitive information to the Russian government.

The FBI alleges John Murray Rowe Jr., 63, of Lead, South Dakota, attempted to sell numerous pieces of information to an agent posing as a member of the Russian government.

In its complaint affidavit, the FBI accuses Rowe of having violated federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 794(a), which prohibits Americans from gathering or delivering defense information to a foreign government.

The affidavit includes portions of several emails alleged to have been sent from Rowe to the fake Russian agent. In one message, the former contractor indicates he became angry after losing security clearance and being unable to get a job.

“Without (an) Active Secret clearance you cannot work on classified projects,” the email reads, “so (I’ve) been without a job the past year… Anyway, I kind of look at the situation like this. If I can’t get a job here then I’ll go work for the other team.”

Rowe, who held secret and top-secret clearances, had worked for nearly four decades as an engineer, but came onto the FBI’s radar after committing various safety violations and “revealing a fervent interest in Russian affairs, including whether he could obtain a security clearance from the Russian government.”

Because of Rowe’s behavior, the FBI set up an undercover operation that the bureau says resulted in Rowe spending eight months in communication with an FBI agent he believed to be a representative of the Russian government.

During that time, Rowe sent some 300 emails. The FBI alleges that in one of these messages, Rowe shared details about the electronic countermeasure systems used in U.S. fighter jets.

“A subject matter expert within the USAF has confirmed that the information disclosed by (Rowe) was classified at the (secret) level,” the affidavit reads, “meaning its unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to national security.”

The affidavit also reveals that Rowe indicated in an email that he planned to eventually relocate to Russia, acquire dual citizenship, and live off his Social Security payments.

Rowe is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Friday.