Today, House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf and House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith sent a letter each to FBI Director Robert Mueller and NASA’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz requesting answers to a delayed Department of Justice Investigation concerning several potential ITAR violations at Ames Research Center. These ITAR violations may have included the improper handling of, among other classified information, information on U.S. missile defense weapons. Foreign nationals working at Ames Research were allegedly discovered attempting to take such information to China, among other countries. It is further alleged that these ITAR-related violations occurred at Ames Research Center over a period of years.
The two senior members of the House covering NASA’s appropriations and oversight asked why indictments sought by the U.S. Attorney’s office, and supported by the FBI, were denied by the Justice Department without reply. They also requested to know why an assistant U.S. attorney on the investigation was unexpectedly transferred. The following are excerpts from the letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
“We have been told by sources close to this investigation that the FBI’s case is substantially complete and was referred to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California for prosecution, but it has been stalled for more than a year and that an assistant U.S. attorney was reassigned from the case. It is our understanding that the charges in this case are rapidly running up against the statute of limitations, and that the first charge expired on December 15, 2012.” — Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Lamar Smith
“We are very concerned to learn earlier this week that despite the U.S. Attorney’s request for permission from the Justice Department to proceed with indictments, this request was recently denied without explanation, despite the backing of both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office. We are deeply concerned that political pressure may be a factor and are formally requesting an investigation into the circumstances of the Justice Department’s actions with regard to this case.” — Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Lamar Smith
Letters to FBI Dir. Mueller & NASA IG Horowitz
Some have speculated that Smith’s tenure as Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee would follow the status quo. These letters suggest that Rep. Smith seeks to inject some energy into NASA oversight.