Perhaps the time has come to start reviewing the clearances granted in the US nuclear weapons program. In a sting operation, the FBI arrested a couple trying sell secrets on nuclear-weapons development to a man they thought was an agent of Venezuela. It turned out that they chose … poorly:
Accused in a 22-count indictment are Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 75, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 67, a U.S. citizen. Both were formerly contract employees at Los Alamos.
According to the indictment, Pedro Mascheroni told an undercover agent he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years and that under his program, Venezuela would use a secret, underground nuclear reactor to produce and enrich plutonium, and an open, aboveground reactor to produce nuclear energy.
In July 2008, the FBI agent provided Mascheroni with 12 questions purportedly from Venezuelan military and scientific personnel.
According to the criminal charges, Mascheroni delivered to a post office box in November 2008 a disk with a coded 132-page document on it that contained “restricted data” related to nuclear weapons. Written by Mascheroni and edited by his wife, the document was entitled “A Deterrence Program for Venezuela” and it laid out Mascheroni’s nuclear weapons development program for Venezuela.
Mascheroni’s price for selling out the US to a thug dictator? Just under $800,000 and Venezuelan citizenship.
The Department of Justice says that they are not alleging that the government of Venezuela had any role in this plot, but some questions remain, and probably will until their trial. How did the FBI find out about the Mascheronis and their plot, and manage to position themselves with an undercover agent to intercept Mascheroni’s outreach? Either they had a tip, or Mascheroni may have had other contacts that came to their attention. Either way, the FBI should be commended for good work in catching this before Mascheroni succeeded in transferring the data to Caracas.
Update: I forgot the original story link; I’ve inserted it above.