Defense contractor arrested in alleged attempt to send information to Russia

·2 min read
The Department of Justice logo is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 5, 2021 prior to a press conference regarding a civil rights matter.
The Department of Justice logo is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 5, 2021 prior to a press conference regarding a civil rights matter.


A former defense contractor was arrested Wednesday evening in South Dakota for an alleged attempt to send information to Russia, the Justice Department said.

John Murray Rowe Jr. of Lead, S.D., is charged with attempting to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government, the agency said in a statement. He faces up to a life sentence in prison if convicted.

Row, who is originally from Massachusetts, was a test engineer for nearly 40 years for multiple defense contractors, the Justice Department said. Because of this, he held various national security clearances.

According to an affidavit, Rowe worked for four contractors between 2004 and 2018. He was terminated from employment for multiple security violations, including inquiring about obtaining a security clearance from the Russian government.

The FBI began investigating based on his past conduct.

Rowe allegedly met with an undercover FBI employee who was posing as an agent of the Russian government in March 2020 and made multiple disclosures during the meeting about national defense information regarding the Air Force, the affidavit states.

For eight months following that meeting, Rowe allegedly exchanged over 300 emails with the undercover agent, in which he expressed a willingness to work for the Russian government and discuss knowledge of classified information. In one email, for instance, Rowe is alleged to have disclosed classified information about specific operating details of electronic countermeasure systems used by military fighter jets.

In another email from September 2020, the affidavit says Rowe discussed plans to travel from his home in South Dakota to Pennsylvania to meet with another purported Russian government agent.

He indicated a month later that he planned to travel to Pennsylvania after the 2020 election, per the affidavit. Later, in November 2020, Rowe allegedly said in an email that he found classified documents that he took from an unnamed defense contractor and US agency.

Rowe is scheduled to make his first court appearance in a Pennsylvanian federal court on Friday, the Justice Department said.

An attorney for Rowe was not listed in court records.

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