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Former Raytheon engineer gets 18 months for taking home 31,000 pages of classified documents on new radar systems

In hindsight, Ahmed Serageldin of Sharon agrees, it was a rather big mistake to mark 31,000 pages of top-secret information on advanced military radar systems as unclassified so he could take them home from his engineering job at Raytheon in Waltham.

It's a mistake for which Serageldin will now spend 18 months in federal prison.

A judge in US District Court in Boston yesterday imposed the sentence after hearing from federal prosecutors, who sought five years, and Serageldin's attorney, who asked for probation following his guilty plea to one count of willfully retaining national defense information - which prosecutors say included documents labeled "confidential" or "secret" involving mainly new military radar systems but also a system for preventing tampering with missiles.

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that even if the judge accepted Serageldin's argument that he loved his job so much he wanted to keep working on stuff at home, one of the points of classifying documents is to keep them from so easily falling into the hands of our nation's enemies, as might happen when you leave documents scattered all over the place, including in or on "his car’s glove box, his living room, his master bedroom closet, a spare bedroom, the dining room table, a sitting area, a utility room, and even his person." There were also the ten unclassified documents the feds say wound up on his mistress's laptop.

So even if the Court accepts Defendant's claim that he did not intend to transfer the documents to another, he nevertheless routinely exposed them to his cohabitants and any visitors, and to any foreign observers who might use a breach of security like this to their advantage by breaking into his house or car, or just by carjacking him or mugging him on the street. A dining room table, a shopping bag, and a pants pocket offer little security. And given the number of documents and their disarray, if any had been taken from him by stealth, Defendant would have been hard put to notice.

Prosecutors also argued Judge Patti Saris take into consideration that Serageldin was born in Egypt and still had ties there, although they presented no evidence that he had actually turned any of the documents over to anybody in Egypt or elsewhere.

In his competing memorandum, Serageldin's attorney argued that the severe shame he has already gone through - he lost his job and had to explain the charges to his community, co-workers, friends and family - was more than enough punishment and asked that he be sentenced only to probation and a fine. Also, there's that whole coronavirus thing going on in prison. Plus, he loves his adopted country and would never do anything to harm it.

Mr. Serageldin comes before this Court with no prior experience with the criminal justice system. As discussed at length in the letters submitted by his colleagues, friends, and family members, he has already had to face his community, admit that he has pleaded guilty to the crimes charged, and address their shock and disbelief at the situation he now finds himself in. He has also faced the abrupt end of the career at Raytheon that he loved. And he has not only had every aspect of his life and daily activities scrutinized by government investigators constantly for more three years, but he has also been subject to the restrictive conditions of pretrial release for almost two full years.

Serageldin, who emigrated here from Egypt, got a PhD in "condensed state of matter" from Northeastern and spent 20 years working for Raytheon on aerospace technology, winning several patents in his name.

According to court documents, Internal investigators at Raytheon began looking into Serageldin in 2017 as part of a time-sheet probe - it looked as if he was putting in time for work on Fridays when he never showed up at work.

One thing led to another and they began questioning him about specific documents related to radar systems - some still under development - and eventually led them to demand he hand over his laptop. Before he did, prosecutors charge, he made a trip to his town library to look up how to delete documents from a hard drive so that they could not be recovered.

He altered the classification markings on approximately 50 documents (approximately 1 out of every 11 or 12 classified documents), either by replacing the SECRET or CONFIDENTIAL markings digitally with an "XX" or, on one paper document, by physically cutting off the classification banners with a pair of scissors or a razor blade;

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Comments

Also, "his mistress's laptop?" That ought to be the main story right there.

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Voting closed 15

Alas, there weren't.

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It's a mistake for which Serageldin will not spend 18 months in federal prison.

Think you meant to say he will now spend 18 months in federal prison.

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Voting closed 18

The W and the T aren't even next to each other on the keyboard, sigh.

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Key takeaway: "although they presented no evidence that he had actually turned any of the documents over to anybody in Egypt or elsewhere."

In other words, another nothing actually happened "crime" that the federal government ruined someone's life over.

Surprised they didn't throw in "conspiracy to...", "money laundering", or the ever-popular "lying to federal agents" so they could put him in jail for 20 years.

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Voting closed 8

You act like this guy didn't do anything wrong: but he did. I think it's very suspicious that some of these documents were on his partner's laptop. What he did was illegal and he knew it.

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And it wasn't the Feds that ruined his life. He did that when he decided to take sensitive documents home with him.

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Yeah, "declassifying" documents yourself so you can take them off-site is pretty damn bad.

If I drive drunk but don't hit anyone or anything, that then becomes a "nothing actually happened crime" that I shouldn't be punished for?

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Voting closed 11

Set up his own poorly secured email server and sent it all through there. No trouble at all.

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"Should I have not done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, ‘cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you people do that all the time." -- G. Costanza

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Voting closed 16

He should have worn a pantsuit.

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Or talked about it with his golfing buddies and heads of state who have bounties out on our soldiers.

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But yes, other people’s indiscretions definitely makes one’s crimes nothing.

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when i was in college a lockheed intern was showing off schematics to several kids in the lab. when found out he was not hired back.

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I spent a summer living in the dorms. When checking in there was a woman who was bragging about how she had a summer internship with a defense contractor and got to see "all sorts of classified material". That's not the sort of thing you're suppose to speak about openly.

She also complimented herself on her ingenuity: Someone had stolen one of her bike wheels so she just took the wheel from someone else's bike. She thought this was a brilliant move on her part.

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Voting closed 16

Confidential and Secret are less secret than Top Secret.

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