Glenn Woodell, a NASA supervisor who pled guilty to violating U.S. espionage laws involving a Chinese NASA contractor was given a slap on the wrist with six months’ probation and a $250 fine, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Daniel Jobson, a Woodell colleague and fellow NASA supervisor, had his espionage charges reduced to a misdemeanor and was released without any penalty.
The lenient plea deals were quietly delivered October 26 in U.S. District Court in Newport News, Virginia. The U.S. Attorneys office did not to issue a press release about the deals and declined comment when contacted by the DCNF.
Woodell was charged under Title 18 of the nation’s espionage laws and faced a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.
“It’s like a traffic ticket or something for littering,” commented former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf in an interview with the DCNF. A former Virginia Republican congressman who was chairman of a House appropriations oversight subcommittee for NASA, worked to expose Bo Jiang, the Chinese NASA contractor at the heart of the espionage case.
Woodell permitted Bo Jiang “complete and unrestricted access” to the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, according to the indictment filed October 20. The indictment stated that he had violated NASA’s security and IT regulations over a two-year period, from Spring 2011 to January 2013.
The Obama administration’s lenient treatment of Woodell drew immediate criticism of what is viewed as a too-permissive attitude toward foreign nationals working at government facilities containing national security assets.
House Space Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican, told the DCNF, “This punishment is inadequate and sends the wrong signal to our adversaries and those entrusted with protecting America’s most sensitive information.”
Rep. John Culberson, who succeeded Wolf as chairman of the NASA appropriations subcommittee, also deplored the plea deal.
“It is intolerable that espionage is not taken more seriously by the administration,” Culberson, also a Texas Republican, told the DCNF.
Culberson vowed to seek changes in the law concerning foreign nationals with access to NASA confidential activities. “I will do what I can to change the law and put conditions on NASA’s receipt of our hard-earned tax dollars to ensure they keep the Chinese government as far away from our space program as possible,” he said.
FBI Director James Comey told the House Homeland Security Committee October 20 that the administration must “get smarter” about foreign citizens with green cards who “wander around” sensitive U.S. facilities like NASA.
“This is the weakest administration. They are afraid of China,” Wolf charged.
Wolf noted China’s unveiling yesterday of its first large airliner to compete with Airbus and Boeing.
“The Chinese are stealing us blind. Look at their new commercial airline,” Wolf said. “Almost everything on that airplane is from Airbus and Boeing,” he charged.
Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly promised President Obama in his September 25 visit to the White House that there would be no more Chinese cyberespionage.
Yet a month after Xi left Washington, Chinese hackers targeted at least seven U.S. companies, according to CrowdStrike, a company the helps American companies fight cyberespionage attacks.
According to Woodell’s admission of facts published by the U.S. Attorneys office during the plea deal, a NASA security plan for Bo Jiang “required Woodell to ensure that Jiang’s access to information was limited to information that was unclassified, non-sensitive, non-export controlled that was directly applicable to the tasks assigned to Jiang.”
Instead, Woodell had given Bo Jiang unfettered access. “At no time did Woodell ever act to secure, protect or fully restrict Jiang’s access to the information,” the U.S. Attorneys office wrote.
Working with NASA Langley whistleblowers who were alarmed at Bo Jiang’s activity, Rep. Wolf publicly announced his concern in a March 2013 news conference.
Shortly after Wolf’s press conference Bo Jiang sought to flee the United States and was intercepted by federal agents at Dulles Airport on March 16, 2013. He had purchased a one-way ticket to his homeland in China.
The Chinese had in his possession a laptop with a Seagate External Hard Drive “that contained the NASA unauthorized, unrestricted access information,” from NASA Langley, according to the U.S. Attorneys office.
NASA headquarters did not respond to a request for comment.
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