By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
The USS Gerald R. Ford is christened during a ceremony Nov. 9, 2013, at Huntington-Ingalls Industries’ Newport News shipyard in Virginia. The Gerald Ford is the first of a new class of aircraft carrier intended to replace Nimitz-class carriers. – U.S. NavyI’ll give you three guesses what the religion of the engineer is, but you’ll only need one. That’s right… the religion of pieces. Gee, I’m shocked! Who would have thought someone with a name like Mostafa Ahmed Awwad might be a security risk? Not the American Navy… no-siree.
So, a Naval engineer attempts to hand over schematics for our latest aircraft carrier and technical data to an FBI agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer and the penalty is only a maximum of 20 years on each count? Isn’t this treason? Or has that now been redefined as well? Dead drops, wearing a pinhole camera to photograph classified material and dealing with foreign intelligence officers adds up to being a spy. And, holy crap! It gets worse. He wanted to discuss with that intelligence officer where to strike that carrier with a missile to sink it. Did you hear about this in the news? Nope – crickets. Nothing to see here – yet. This guy worked in nuclear engineering and planning. His security clearance gave him access to information on Naval nuclear propulsion systems. Tick, fricking, tock people.
From Stars and Stripes:
Though it was unclear from the documents how investigators first began to track Awwad, a search warrant affidavit made public Friday says that an FBI undercover agent first called him on the afternoon of Sept. 18.
The FBI agent, “posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer,” identified himself as “Yousef,” from Washington, D.C., according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent James Blitzer. The undercover agent then “asked Awwad to meet him at a public park in Hampton” the next day.
Awwad agreed, and they met at 7:30 a.m. the next morning at Sandy Bottom Nature Park, off Big Bethel Road and Hampton Roads Center Parkway. During the 90-minute meeting, the affidavit says, Awwad told “Yousef” he intended “to utilize his position of trust with the U.S. Navy to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government.”
“Awwad discussed various aspects of U.S. radar technology, U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers, ballistic nuclear submarines, and nuclear attack submarines in an attempt to describe his ability to obtain information for the Egyptian government,” the FBI affidavit says.
Awwad told “Yousef” he would copy the Ford’s designs onto CDs and would conduct “clandestine communications with Yousef by email and unattributable telephones.” Awwad said he would use “dead drops” — of the CDs and return payments — at concealed locations at Sandy Bottom, Blitzer’s affidavit says.
On Oct 9, the pair met at a local hotel at 5:30 p.m., the affidavit says. In advance of that meeting, Awwad asked the undercover agent to bring a laptop computer, thumb drives, an external hard drive and a prepaid phone.
“Awwad suggested an elaborate safety system which included several one-time use electronic mail boxes with phantom names,” the affidavit says. The plan included “bugs” on restricted computer systems “that will enable him to copy documents without causing a security alert,” the affidavit said.
“Awwad provided Yousef with four computer aided design (CAD) drawings of a U.S. aircraft carrier which he claimed are Top Secret,” the affidavit says. “Awwad discussed where to strike the vessel with a missile in order to sink it.”
Also according to the affidavit, Awwad said he was building a milling machine to replicate some of the American technology and asked the agent for $1,500 for a camera to “to photograph restricted material” at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Later, the affidavit says, the FBI determined the drawings were indeed of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford carrier.
According to the affidavit, many of the drawings contained the following text: “WARNING: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS TECHNICAL DATA WHOSE EXPORT IS RESTRICTED BY THE ARMS CONTROL ACT … OR THE EXPORT ADMINISTRATIVE ACT … VIOLATIONS OF THESE LAWS ARE SUBJECT TO SEVERE CRIMAINAL PENALTIES.”
At about 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, the affidavit says, Awwad dropped a hard drive and two passport pictures at a “dead drop” container at the nature park. The container was in a hole in a ground along a secluded hiking trail, and covered by “camouflage netting and vegetation.” Awwad took $3,000 in cash that “Yousef” had left for him.
At 10:37 a.m., the affidavit says, Awwad texted Yousef: “All done. You can get it now.”
On Nov. 28, the affidavit says, Awwad was seen entering his office at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, holding a white tube, then took out design schematics — each about 10-feet long. He put them on the floor and photographed them with “what appeared to be a pocket camera.”
“The schematics appeared to be various profiles of an aircraft carrier,” the affidavit says, adding that Awwad was looking at the drawings and taking pictures for about 45 minutes. After being out of view for about two minutes, he “packed up his items” and “departed the office,” the affidavit says.
It was unclear from the affidavit what the schematics represented or what part of the carrier they depicted.
The affidavit was for a search warrant for Awwad’s home in York County, two of his vehicles — a 2001 BMW and a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer — and a storage unit on J.Clyde Morris Blvd. in Newport News. It was not immediately clear what was seized in those searches.
The Ford aircraft carrier is worth $13 billion. It has a dozen new technologies on board, including a dual band radar, new systems for launching and recovering aircraft, and a nuclear propulsion system that produces a nearly three-fold increase in power generation compared to the current Nimitz-class carriers. The aircraft carrier will be delivered in 2016 and will be the most advanced of its kind. Two more Ford Class carriers are in production: the John F. Kennedy and the Enterprise.
Awwad was born in Saudi Arabia and married his wife in Cairo. In 2007, he began applying for US citizenship. One wonders how well he was vetted for his security clearance. Not good enough evidently. The nuclear power systems on board aircraft carriers are considered among the most closely guarded sections of the ship – they are supposedly under strict surveillance and closely guarded. Awwad had access to information concerning the design, development, maintenance and repair of propulsion plants on board nuclear-powered ships. What could go wrong? Everything. This one was caught – not every one will be.