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Retired Professor Sentenced For Passing UAV Information To Students

Chinese, Iranian Students Allowed To See Sensitive Data

71-year-old John Reese Roth has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for allowing Chinese grad students to see sensitive information on UAV's while working on a research project. The prominent plasma physicist was charged with 18 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, and violations of the Arms Export Control Act.

Scientific American reports Roth helped found "Atmospheric Glow Technologies" after retiring from the University of Tennessee. The company primarily conducts research into using RF technology to create plasma gas used for sterilization of medical instruments and other applications. But it also had a contract with the Air Force for the development of plasma actuators that could reduce drag on UAV's. Under the contract, Roth was prohibited from sharing that information with foreign nationals.

The indictment charged that Roth defied that contract and carried his laptop containing the sensitive information with him on a lecture tour in China.  He also allowed Chinese and Iranian nationals to work with him on the project.

During his trial, Roth claimed he didn't think hiring the graduate students to help him with the research violated his contract. Otherwise, he testified, he would not have agreed to participate in the research. His attorney had filed notice of appeal.

File Photo

“The illegal export of restricted military data represents a serious threat to national security,” David Kris of the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement, “We know that foreign governments are actively seeking this information for their own military development. Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to anyone who knowingly discloses restricted military data in violation of our laws.”



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