A federal judge is delaying a decision on granting bail to a civilian defense contractor accused of giving military secrets from U.S. Pacific Command to a Chinese girlfriend.
Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi said during a detention hearing Friday he wants to hear more arguments before deciding whether Benjamin Bishop, 59, of Makakilo, should be released while he awaits trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Sorenson argued Bishop still poses a risk to community and country because of sensitive information contained in the suspect's mind. However, Puglisi rebuked the claim, saying the government must show how Bishop could still pass sensitive information to others, without some sort of clandestine device, such as a secret computer or thumb drive.
"What I don't understand is why he is a danger to the community," said Puglisi, while addressing Sorenson.
Bishop's defense attorney, Birney Bervar, said there was no legal precedence for keeping his client in custody for knowledge he may have gained since receiving top secret security clearance in July, 2002.
"There's no authority, statutory or case law, to lock somebody up because of their thoughts, or what may be in their minds," said Bervar. "I agree with the judge."
Bishop is charged with one count of communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans.
An FBI affidavit alleges Bishop gave his 27-year-old girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons and other topics. Sorenson said investigators found "volumes" of classified documents at Bishop's home on Makakilo Drive.
However, Bervar said Bishop's relationship with the younger Chinese woman was based on romance, not espionage. The two met during a military conference in Honolulu in 2011.
"I believe the two were in love," said Bervar. "He said he was in love with her, and she led me to believe she was in love with him. So, it's not an espionage case, it's a case about love."