Opening statements begin in military secrets trial of former B-2 bomber engineer

By Audrey Mcavoy, AP
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Opening statements begin for alleged B-2 spy

HONOLULU — Prosecutors on Tuesday accused a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer of betraying the United States as his trial began on charges he sold military secrets to China.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson told jurors Noshir Gowadia disclosed the “vulnerabilities of our nation’s most important strategic assets.” He said the India-born naturalized U.S. citizen “betrayed the country that granted him citizenship.”

The 66-year-old Maui man has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts, including conspiracy, violating the arms export control act and money laundering.

Wearing a gray suit and a blue dress shirt, Gowadia looked relaxed as he listened to the allegations against him. His defense team was due to deliver its opening statement later in the day.

Sorenson told the 12 jurors and six alternates in U.S. District Court that Gowadia helped design a stealth cruise missile for China that would evade infrared sensors and defeat U.S. heat-seeking missiles.

The prosecutor explained how Gowadia worked at Northrop Corp., now Northrop Grumman Corp., from 1968 to 1986, and helped design the propulsion system for the B-2 stealth bomber.

Sorenson said Gowadia first relayed classified information to China about the B-2 bomber to establish his bona fides. Sorenson said Gowadia later relayed classified information by designing a low-observable exhaust nozzle for a Chinese cruise missile.

He outlined six trips Gowadia had taken to China between 2003 and 2005. He alleged Gowadia’s first trip was to establish contacts there and be vetted by the Chinese government, and then later to explain and test his cruise missile designs.

He said Gowadia approached China wanting to sell military secrets — not the other way around.

“He was a walk-in. He walked in to the Chinese. He wanted to sell himself and the Chinese were more than happy to deal with him,” Sorenson said.

He described a covert e-mail address a Chinese agent named Tommy Wong, of Beijing’s Foreign Experts Bureau, set up for Gowadia, Wong and another contact.

Sorenson also quoted from a statement Gowadia gave to investigators in 2005, shortly before he was arrested, in which he allegedly acknowledged wrongdoing.

The trial is being held more than four years after Gowadia’s arrest. The trial was repeatedly delayed in part because attorneys needed time to review large volumes of classified evidence.

Gowadia has been in federal detention since his arrest after judge ruled he was a flight risk.

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