Lawyer says China case wasn’t espionage but love

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 4:39pm

An attorney for a US defence contractor accused of giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend said there’s no evidence that classified information was given to any foreign country.

Benjamin Bishop, 59, was in love with the 27-year-old student, his lawyer Birney Bervar said.

“It’s not an espionage case, it’s a case about love,” Bervar told reporters after a detention hearing Friday.

The Army Reserve lieutenant colonel was working at the US Pacific Command as a contractor when he was arrested a week ago. Officials haven’t disclosed the name of the contractor.

Bishop is charged with one count of communicating national defence information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defence documents and plans.

An FBI affidavit alleges Bishop gave his girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defences and other topics through emails and telephone calls.

The affidavit says Bishop met the woman at an international military conference in Hawaii. They began an intimate relationship in June 2011, when Bishop was working at a Pacific Command office that develops plans to deter potential US adversaries, according to the affidavit and Bishop’s LinkedIn profile online.

Bervar said he had not yet been given access to evidence in the case.

The charge of unlawfully retaining national defence documents charge relates to allegations that Bishop improperly kept some classified information at home, authorities said.

Bervar said he spoke to the girlfriend, who hasn’t been named by authorities. US officials also haven’t said whether they believe she is working for the Chinese government, only that she’s living in the US on a student visa.

The woman hasn’t been arrested.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon declined to comment. Assistant US Attorney Ken Sorenson said he wouldn’t discuss the girlfriend, who is identified in court documents only as “Person 1.”

The judge set another hearing for Monday to give the prosecution more time to present more evidence about why Bishop might pose a danger to the community.