Saturday, May 4, 2024

Former Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty To Attempted Espionage

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that John Murray Rowe, Jr., 65, of Lead, South Dakota, pleaded guilty in federal court today before U.S. District Judge John Gallagher to one count of attempted delivery of national defense information to a foreign government, and three counts of willful communication of national defense information.

According to court documents, Rowe, who is originally from Massachusetts, was employed for nearly 40 years as a test engineer for multiple Cleared Defense Contractors. In connection with his employment, Rowe held various national security clearances from SECRET to TOP SECRET//SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) and worked on matters relating to U.S. Air Force electronic warfare technology, among other things. After committing a number of security violations and revealing a devout interest in Russian affairs, Rowe was identified as a potential insider threat and terminated from employment.

In March of 2020, he met with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an agent of the Russian government. During this meeting, Rowe disclosed national defense information classified as SECRET that concerned specific operating details of the electronic countermeasure systems used by U.S. military fighter jets, among other things. Over the course of the next eight months, Rowe 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 U.S. national security. In one email, Rowe explained, “If I can’t get a job here then I’ll go work for the other team.” In another email, Rowe disclosed classified national defense information concerning the U.S. Air Force. In September 2020, Rowe had a second in-person meeting with the undercover FBI agent. During this meeting, Rowe again disclosed classified national defense information.

Rowe was arrested on December 15, 2021, and was ordered detained pending trial. During his pretrial detention at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center, Rowe made at least three unauthorized disclosures of the same classified national defense information concerning the U.S. Air Force to individuals not authorized to receive it – namely, his brother, son and realtor, which were captured on recorded prison calls.

“It’s abhorrent that Rowe would try to betray his own country for the benefit of a foreign adversary,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “Safeguarding the U.S. government’s sensitive defense information is critical to ensuring our national security, and anyone seeking to compromise that should expect to be brought to justice by my office and our law enforcement partners.”

“After nearly 40 years working in the defense industry and being entrusted with our country's military secrets, today, John Murray Rowe Jr. admitted to unlawfully disclosing classified national defense information,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Philadelphia. “Furthermore, his intent to provide this information to a foreign adversary potentially endangered our national security. The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain committed to bringing to justice those who choose to threaten our nation’s security by disseminating classified information.” 

Sentencing is set for August 22, 2024. The defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Wolfe and DOJ Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Section.

Additional assistance was provided by the Lead (SD) Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office and Rapid City (SD) Resident Agency.

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