A former defense contractor was arrested after allegedly attempting to send classified U.S. Air Force information to Russia.

John Murray Rowe Jr., a 63-year-old man from South Dakota, "attempted to provide classified national defense information to the Russian government," according to a Justice Department press release Thursday. Row, who is originally from Massachusetts, spent 40 years as a test engineer for multiple defense contractors, where he was able to obtain multiple security clearances.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.  (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images) ( Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Between 2004 and 2018, Rowe worked with four contractors but was terminated after multiple security violations, according to an affidavit. In one incident, he allegedly "inquired about the possibility of simultaneously holding a U.S. security clearance and a Russian security clearance."

His actions eventually led the FBI to investigate, with an undercover officer posing as an agent of the Russian government and making contact with Rowe in March of last year. During Rowe's encounters with the agent, he made multiple disclosures of national defense information about the Air Force, the affidavit alleges.

The back of an FBI agent

Rowe then spent months exchanging over 300 emails with the undercover agent in which he said he was willing to work with the Russian government and share classified information. 


In one exchange, Rowe boasts of having worked on classified technology that allows U.S. fighter jets to jam radar. In another exchange, he complains about the loss of his security clearance and talks about his plans to eventually relocate to Moscow.


A U.S. Air Force F-15C fighter jet crashed off Okinawa, and the pilot was rescued. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Rogers, File)

Rowe is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday, the Justice Department said. He is charged with "attempting to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government," which carries a possible term of life in prison.