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Judicial Watch • Jail For Prof. Who Gave China U.S. Military Secrets

Jail For Prof. Who Gave China U.S. Military Secrets

Jail For Prof. Who Gave China U.S. Military Secrets

JULY 01, 2009

A professor emeritus at a public university in Tennessee has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for passing sensitive U.S. military secrets to the communist government of China and for defrauding the taxpayer-funded school of honest services.

The electrical and computer engineering professor (John Reece Roth) was indicted by a federal grand jury in mid 2008 and was subsequently convicted after a seven-day trial a few months later. A federal jury found the professor guilty of violating the Arms Export Control Act by disclosing restricted military data about unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, to foreign nationals.

Roth used Chinese graduate research assistants and wire transmissions to pass technical information to China between 2004 and 2006 involving a U.S. military contract with a university research spin off company he helped found. The data was specifically related to an Air Force project to develop plasma actuators for munitions-type drones. 

The disgraced professor also took a trip to China in May 2006 to supposedly give an academic lecture. Instead, federal authorities say he delivered more delicate technical data—clearly controlled by International Trafficking in Arms Regulations—about the military project. 

Roth could have caused “harm to the security of the United States,” according to the Knoxville federal judge who sentenced him to jail this week. Regardless, the judge still granted the 71-year-old professor freedom pending an appeal.

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