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Naval engineer attempted to pass military secrets to Egypt about the US Carrier Gerald R. Ford

On Dec. 3, a federal grand jury indicted a U.S. Navy engineer for copying and attempting to transfer defense articles and technical data to Egypt. The two counts of the indictment against the engineer each carries a possible prison term of 20 years.

Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, a naturalized American citizen born in Saudi Arabia, sought to transfer technical information about the nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford to someone whom he believed was an agent of the Egyptian government.


Instead, that agent, who used the name “Yousef” during the operation, actually worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Awwad lives in Yorktown, Virginia. He is a civilian engineer and since February has worked in the nuclear engineering and planning department of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He received a security clearance in August.

The office in which Awwad worked provides engineering support for the $12.9 billion nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, which is currently under construction.

The indictment and affidavit, according to Navy Times, lays out how an FBI undercover agent contacted Awwad by phone and, speaking in Arabic, asked to meet him on Sept. 19.

According to sources citing a Justice Dept. press release, during the Sept. 19 meeting “Awwad met with the undercover FBI agent, who was posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer, in a park in Hampton, Virginia.

“During the meeting Awwad claimed it was his intention to utilize his position of trust with the US Navy to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government, including but not limited to, the designs of the USS Gerald Ford nuclear aircraft carrier. Awwad agreed to conduct clandestine communications with the undercover FBI agent by email and unattributable telephones and to conduct ‘dead drops’ in a concealed location in the park.”

According to the affidavit, Awwad brought a .45-caliber handgun to the meeting.

On Oct. 9, the Justice Department release allegedly continues, Awwad “and the undercover FBI agent met at a hotel where Awwad described a detailed plan to circumvent US Navy computer security by installing software on his restricted computer system that would enable him to copy documents without causing a security alert.”

During the meeting, “Awwad discussed where to strike the vessel with a missile in order to sink it,” the affidavit reportedly says.

“At this time Awwad also provided the undercover FBI agent four computer aided drawings of a US nuclear aircraft carrier downloaded from the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Information system. These drawings were marked with warnings that foreign distribution could result in criminal prosecution.

“During the discussion, Awwad indicated his understanding that the drawings would be sent to and used in Egypt. Awwad also asked the undercover FBI agent for $1,500 to purchase a pinhole camera he would wear around the shipyard to photograph restricted material.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, Awwad agreed to provide the undercover FBI agent with passport photos which would be used to produce a fraudulent Egyptian passport so Awwad could travel to Egypt without alerting US government officials.”

On Oct. 23, the documents said, Awwad traveled to a pre-arranged dead drop site — a concealed container disguised as a hole in the ground situated on a secluded hiking trail in a park. There, “he retrieved $3,000 in cash before placing a one-terabyte external hard drive and two passport photos inside. The FBI later collected the contents of the dead drop container.”

More than a month later, on Nov. 28, according to the affidavit, “Awwad was observed entering his office at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard holding a cardboard tube about three feet long. Once in his office, Awwad opened the cardboard tube and took out several white sheets which appeared to be design schematics of an aircraft carrier. Awwad then placed the schematics on the floor of his office and photographed them. After approximately 45 minutes of viewing the schematics and taking photographs, Awwad placed all the schematics back in the cardboard tube and left his office.”


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: [email protected]