A new international incident could complicate the already controversial nuclear deal the U.S. and 5 other countries have brokered with Iran.
Congress is already threatening sanctions that could derail the six-month interim agreement set to take affect next week, between Iran and the West, halting Tehran’s nuclear program.
Mozaffar Khazaee, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who worked for defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, was arrested last week for allegedly trying to smuggle boxes of documents related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the plane expected to be the Pentagon’s next generation fighter jet. He was picked up in New Jersey on his way to Iran.
Whether Khazaee was working as a spy for Iran or took the documents on his own is not known. However, it’s unlikely he would take such a risk without someone waiting in the wings to receive the stolen papers.
An affidavit filed by a Special Agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations states Khazaee had shipped boxes of documents labeled “household goods” to Iran in November. According to Customs, Khazaee said the 44 boxes contained “books and college-related items, two suitcases, a vacuum cleaner and some other items.”
However, when Customs stopped the truck in route from Connecticut to California, they discovered the boxes contained “"thousands of pages contained in dozens of manuals/binders relating to the JSF [F-35 Joint Strike Fighter] program." Khazaee, who has traveled to Iran five times in the last seven years according to the affidavit, now stands accused of interstate transportation of stolen property of $5,000 or more. He could spend 10 years in prison if found guilty.
The Pentagon has staked the future of American air superiority on the F-35, having already spent $400 billion on it. The final price tag for the jet is expected to be $1.5 trillion.
Iran isn’t the only international rival that has tried to get its hands on documents related to the plane. In a cyber attack last year, Chinese hackers targeted companies that work on the F-35.
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