NASA chief Charles Bolden is reviewing a request from a U.S. senator for a briefing on alleged misconduct at the agency's Ames Research Center (ARC) in California.
The allegations appear to involve violations of U.S. laws meant to guard national secrets.
In a letter obtained by ScienceInsider, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, today asked "to be briefed by knowledgeable NASA officials" on "serious allegations from whistleblowers."
"Administrator Bolden has received the letter and is in the process of reviewing it," NASA spokesperson Dwayne Brown wrote in an e-mail to ScienceInsider.
In the letter, dated 18 April, Grassley writes:
Recently my office received serious allegations from whistleblowers regarding the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Ames Research Center (ARC) in California and its current director Simon P. Worden. These allegations came to my office from individuals who are concerned about the direction of the ARC under Mr. Worden's leadership.
Specifically, it has been alleged that in recent years Director Worden allowed foreign nationals to access this facility. These foreign nationals have allegedly obtained NASA secrets and cutting edge technology while not possessing the proper clearance in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). After the foreign nationals accessed this information it is possible they shared this sensitive and classified information with foreign entities.
Further, my office received information that federal law enforcement has opened investigations into several employees at the ARC, including Director Worden. … These opened investigations apparently involve issues related to ITAR violations and national security.
Grassley has asked to be briefed no later than 27 April.
The Ames Research Center has not yet responded to a request for comment.