Ex-Defense contractor charged for allegedly trying to give national security secrets to Russia

A former defense contractor was arrested after corresponding for more than a year with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian operative

Updated: December 17, 2021 - 12:51pm

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A former U.S. defense contractor was arrested earlier this week on criminal charges in connection with espionage, according to the Justice Department

John Murray Rowe Jr., a 63-year-old resident of Lead, South Dakota, allegedly attempted to provide classified national defense information to the Russian government.

Rowe was employed for nearly four decades as a test engineer for several defense contractors. He held multiple national security clearances and worked on, among other things, projects for the U.S. Air Force's aerospace technology.

He was ultimately terminated because of a suspicious interest in Russian affairs and curiosity about obtaining a security clearance from the Russian government. 

Because of his status as a security risk, the FBI began an undercover operation to determine Rowe's willingness to commit espionage.

In early 2020, Rowe met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian government official and went on to confirm that he would be willing to work for the Russian government. 

He sent hundreds of emails to the undercover agent explaining his willingness to work for the Russians and disclose classified U.S. national security and military information.

"If I can't get a job here then I'll go work for the other team," wrote Rowe in one email. 

Rowe's initial court appearance will be in the District of South Dakota on Friday. He is charged with attempting to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government. If he convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

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