FBI Director James Comey says stopping cyber terror and cyber espionage are top priorities for his agency.. He is with Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha at FBI Headquarters in Honolulu
FBI Director James Comey with Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha at FBI Headquarters in Honolulu

HONOLULU – With its strategic location in the Pacific and substantial military assets, Hawaii has been a prime target of foreign governments seeking U.S. intelligence, something FBI Director James Comey acknowledged on a recent trip to the state.

The way to stop intelligence breaches, Comey said Dec. 12, is to “know your people” and “who has access to what,” and then, when someone “goes bad,” respond aggressively and “lock some people up for a long period of time.”

Retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and civilian contractor Benjamin Pierce Bishop was sentenced on Sept. 18, 2014, to seven years in federal prison on espionage charges after he confessed to taking home top-secret government documents and sending an email to his Chinese girlfriend that included details about a classified meeting with officials from the U.S. and South Korea.

Army Intelligence Officer Seivirak Inson, who worked at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, was convicted in June 2013 by a military jury on charges related to illegally passing classified national defense information to the Cambodian government between 2009 and 2013.

Hawaii resident Noshir Gowadia was sentenced in Jan. 2011 to 32 years in federal prison for 14 charges related to selling B-2 bomber design secrets to China.

Edward Snowden, a government contractor in Hawaii with Booz Allen Hamilton, provided NSA documents to journalists at the Guardian and The Washington Post beginning in June 2013, exposing U.S. spy operations.

Comey said he is concerned that in the wake of Snowden’s “so called revelations,” Americans “healthy skepticism” of government powers will turn to cynicism.

“I think Americans should be skeptical of government power, our country was built by people who were,” Comey said. “What I worry about in the wake of some of the reporting about Snowden’s stuff was that would bleed over to cynicism. That worries me, because I think people should ask me hard questions about my authorities, but give me the space and time to answer, because I think there is an angel in those details,” Comey said.

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