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October 1, 2014

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Defense contractor to plead guilty in military secrets case

HONOLULU — A civilian defense contractor accused of giving military secrets to a Chinese girlfriend half his age will be entering a guilty plea, his attorney said Tuesday.

Benjamin Bishop was expected to plead guilty in federal court on Thursday to one count of transmitting national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans.

Bishop, 60, was arrested last March at the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command, where he worked.

A document for the plea agreement filed Tuesday said Bishop emailed his girlfriend classified information on joint training and planning sessions between the U.S. and South Korea.

It said Bishop had classified documents at his Hawaii home, including one titled "U.S. Department of Defense China Strategy," another on U.S. force posture in Asia and the Pacific and a U.S. Pacific Command joint intelligence operations center special report.

An FBI affidavit last year alleged the then-59-year-old gave his 27-year-old girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defenses and other topics.

Bervar has said the two were in love and that the case was about love, not espionage.

Bishop has been in federal detention in Honolulu for the majority of time since his March 2013 arrest.

U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi allowed him to move to a halfway house last June. But a magistrate judge ordered him back to jail in December after he violated the terms of his release by emailing his girlfriend and writing her a letter.

The FBI alleged Bishop and the woman, now 28, started an intimate, romantic relationship in June 2011. The prosecution said she was a graduate student and she and Bishop were having an extramarital affair.

Utah state records show Bishop was married until 2012.

The FBI's affidavit alleged the woman may have attended an international defense conference in Hawaii, where she initially met Bishop, specifically to target people like Bishop who have access to classified information.

Authorities haven't released her identity or whereabouts. They also haven't said publicly whether they believe she was working for the Chinese government.

She was living in the United States as a student on a J-1 visa, according to the FBI.

Defendants must normally be indicted within a month of their arrest, but Bishop's defense team waived the deadline in exchange for an opportunity to view the prosecution's evidence, much of which is classified.

Bishop, who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, worked in the field of cyber defense at Pacific Command from May 2011 until his arrest. Prior to that, he helped develop Pacific Command strategy and policy.

Bishop was familiar with the Pacific Command's highest priority capability gaps, the command's chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, said in a declaration filed in support of the prosecution's motion to have him detained without bail.

From 2010 to 2012, Bishop had access to "top secret" information on efforts to defend against a ballistic missile attack from North Korea, Crutchfield said.

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