What happened to turn Benjamin Pierce Bishop — an Army Reserves lieutenant colonel and defense contractor — into an alleged conduit of secret information for China?
Security experts say there were red flags in the kind of relationship struck up between the U.S. Pacific Command defense contractor and his much younger mistress from China. . .
. . . In the spy trade it’s called a honeytrap — a person who woos another into romance, actually targeting the goods on their national secrets instead. That allegedly happened when a 27-year-old Chinese citizen, in Hawaii on a student visa, connected with 59-year-old Bishop at a Hawaii military conference a couple of years ago.
“He should have known better, Baker said. “That’s one of the responsibilities you have as a senior officer in the military, that there are limits to what you can do and what you should do. It’s bad for the integrity of the military when you see cases like this.” . . .
. . . Until last year Benjamin Bishop of Hawaii was married to Siriporn Amornsuwan, who had stayed in Utah with their daughter when he was assigned to Hawaii several years prior for a defense assignment.
It was here, at a 2011 military conference according to the FBI, that another woman from China in her 20s came into the life of Bishop, in his 50s.
“When he asked for the divorce he said that he had met someone else,” said a Utah neighbor of Amornsuwan’s who did not want to be publically identified. “Siri knew that it was a Chinese girl, and that she was a young girl.”
Now he’s charged with breaching his top-secret clearance to tell her things about nuclear weapons and war plans, and taking classified documents to his Makakilo house.
Those who know him say it seems a wild turn of character for a man with a long military career, who appeared quite the patriot in his work and personal life.
“Basically he is not a malicious man, I wouldn’t think so,” the neighbor said. “I think he’s just a man, and that flattery just does much to their ego, and he’s just fallen into it.”
Fallen like a study for the Defense Department says other suspects have in American espionage cases (“Changes in Espionage by Americans” by Northrup Grumman).
The research shows that what they call a “life event” like a divorce can become a trigger for espionage. In fact they found such triggers in one-third of all spy cases going back to the 1950s.
They also found most aren’t motivated by money, and more these days are civilians or contractors, and not active-duty military. . . .
Woman at Center of Spy Allegations Is Enigma (ABC News)
U.S. officials say the 27-year-old university student from China started a relationship with a civilian defense contractor more than twice her age and then found out classified information on U.S. nuclear weaponry, missile defenses and war plans.
But is she a spy?
It is clear the Justice Department believes the woman’s boyfriend broke the law, but the criminal complaint that outlines the charges against him never formally accuses her of any crime. It just paints a picture of a young woman who seems to be involved in espionage. . . .
. . . .The affidavit says the woman told Bishop repeatedly she didn’t want him to tell her anything classified but continued to question Bishop about his work.
Bishop, on the other hand, told her he wouldn’t give her any classified information but did so anyway, the document said.
Bishop, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, is accused of telling her secrets about U.S. nuclear weapons, missile defenses, war plans, early warning radar systems and other issues.
Last month, the woman asked Bishop what western countries knew about a Chinese naval asset. This fell outside the scope of Bishop’s work but he conducted open source record research for her and collected and reviewed classified information on the topic, the affidavit said.
Bishop’s security clearance required him to disclose his contacts with foreign nationals, but the affidavit says he failed to let officials know about his relationship with the woman. . . .
. . . Bishop was married until last year, according to state documents in Utah. His ex-wife declined comment when approached by The Associated Press on Tuesday at her home in Odgen, Utah.
Her neighbor, Sandra Doyle, said it was clear Bishop was having an affair with a Chinese woman prior to the divorce. Doyle, who said she is friends with the ex-wife, said the girlfriend was a university student in the District of Columbia, though she didn’t know which school. . .
. . . Larry Wortzel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said China has used sexual entrapment as a means to gather intelligence before and the allegations aren’t surprising.
As an Army reserve officer and defense contractor, Bishop would have received security briefings on this and understood “how sex may be used for intelligence targeting,” Wortzel said. . . .
A civilian defense contractor accused of giving his Chinese girlfriend military secrets worked on developing military plans to deter potential U.S. enemies when the two began their romance, according to his online professional profile and court documents.
The LinkedIn profile of Benjamin Bishop, 59, says he worked as a planner on “extended deterrence” at the U.S. Pacific Command — the military’s headquarters for Asia and the Pacific — for two years starting in May 2010.
It was during that time — in June 2011 — that Bishop began the intimate, romantic relationship with the 27-year-old woman who was in the U.S. on a student visa, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu last week.
Bishop was arrested Friday at Pacific Command headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii.
The LinkedIn profile says he moved to a different department last May to work on cybersecurity. During that month, the FBI claims, Bishop emailed military secrets to the woman, including war plans and information on nuclear weapons.
The affidavit alleges Bishop told the woman several months later about deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems and the ability of the U.S. to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of other nations. . . .
. . . Bishop also has experience working as a special operations planner at the U.S. Joint Forces Command, his profile says.
Bishop is now a Special Forces lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to his Army biography, which lists several honors including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. . . .
For affidavit and press release, see Military contractor/Army reservist charged with passing classified info to Chinese girlfriend