Former Army officer and current defense contractor Benjamin Pierce Bishop has been charged with communicating classified information to a 27-year-old Chinese student he had been having a romantic relationship with. The 59-year-old made his first court appearance on Monday. Bishop, who works for a company based at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, was arrested on Friday.
Bishop met the woman at a conference in Hawaii involving international military defense issues while she was visiting the United States on a student visa. An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit that the unnamed student "may have been at the conference in order to target individuals such as Bishop who work with and have access to U.S. classified information." Bishop has held a top secret security clearance since 2002, reports The Huffington Post.
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The two started having a romantic relationship in 2011 and the Justice Department says that Bishop provided classified information to the woman several times. He also tried to hide her identity when he visited her in the U.K., by "by slightly changing her given name to a masculine form of the same name and by adding a letter to the surname," when filling out a travel request form.
According to the government, Bishop provided the woman with information relating to nuclear weapons. He gave her intelligence on how the U.S. detects low- and medium-range ballistic missiles and information on early-warning radar systems. If convicted, he faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison