Hawaii is a spot for sun, surf _ and spies

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 3, 2013 at 4:58 am •  Published: April 3, 2013
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HONOLULU (AP) — Clandestine agents. Foreign spies. Intelligence. Hawaii is better known for sunbathing on the beach or surfing than high-stakes sleuthing.

But the case of a 59-year-old civilian defense contractor accused of giving military secrets to his much younger Chinese girlfriend is a reminder of the state's little-known identity as a prime target for espionage. A high concentration of important military commands means there's a great deal of information on the islands that potential adversaries want to know.

Case in point: Most of the FBI's resources in Hawaii are concentrated on counterintelligence — not drug trafficking or terrorism.

"One of the FBI's priorities in Hawaii is keeping America's secrets safe from agents of foreign powers," said Tom Simon, a special agent in Honolulu. "With the amount of military and classified material in Hawaii, it remains a top priority for the FBI."

It helps that the state, population 1.4 million, isn't a hotbed of violent crime. That allows agents to focus much of their efforts on thwarting spooks.

The case against Benjamin Bishop, a defense contractor working for the U.S. Pacific Command when he was arrested March 15, offers a glimpse of the information potential adversaries might be looking for.

Bishop knows U.S. secrets on countering weapons of mass destruction, nuclear deterrence and ballistic missile defense, according to a declaration filed in court by Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, the Pacific Command's chief of staff.

More recently, Bishop worked on cyber security and is familiar with how the U.S. would counter adversaries in electronic warfare, air combat, undersea warfare, energy security and cyberspace, the declaration says.

Investigators say Bishop gave his girlfriend — a 27-year-old graduate student he met at an international military conference in Hawaii— classified information on nuclear weapons, war plans and missile defense.

Bishop hasn't been charged with outright espionage, which the law defines as giving national security secrets to someone for the purpose of helping a foreign government or harming the United States. But he has been charged with two violations of the Espionage Act: communicating defense secrets to someone not entitled to receive it and unlawful retention of defense documents.

Prosecutors haven't said they believe the girlfriend is working for the Chinese government or that she's given anything she learned from Bishop to anyone else. But an FBI affidavit filed in support of the charges speculates she may have attended the military conference specifically to target people like Bishop who work with classified information.

Bishop has not yet entered a plea, but his lawyer says his client wouldn't do anything to harm the U.S. The attorney, Birney Bervar, says the case isn't about espionage but about two people in love.

Spying isn't new to Hawaii.

In the months before the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, a Japanese vice consul in Honolulu spent much of his time monitoring and reporting back home on the comings and goings of the U.S. Navy. Takeo Yoshikawa is said to have favored the view of Pearl Harbor he would get at a tea house — still in business today as the Natsunoya restaurant — in a hilly neighborhood overlooking the naval base.

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