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;