As the two sat down to lunch, Botha gave Posey a shopping list of technical data and manuals for Newport Aeronautical. South Africa will eventually order documents for a range of components, including power units for the C-130 transport aircraft and old favorite General Electric jet engines. Certain items are on the US arms list—technology, weapons, and information—whose export is strictly controlled, especially to a country like South Africa.
After Posey insisted on dealing with the South African army through intermediate companies. “I can’t deal with anyone on a surface level. I had to be underground so I was protected from scrutiny,” he told Botha. When Botha asked what “protected from scrutiny” meant, Posey replied, “You know, protected from the scrutiny of the FBI.”
It was too late. The FBI heard about Pentagon data
Ibbotson listens when Posey tells Roberta that Newport Aeronautical has a contract to do $98,000 (equivalent to about $260,000 today), and he listens when Posey tries to courier Edward James Bush, an English-born aerospace consultant. manuals and launder the proceeds through his Canadian bank account. Bush later said the two had already worked together. Earlier in the year, Posey supplied him with technical manuals for F-4 and F-5 fighter jets destined for Iran’s air force.
In early February 1987, a team of FBI agents followed Posey and Bush to print and package the South African documents. Bush planned to go through Argentina to South Africa, where Posey wanted to leave some other technical manuals on space and missile systems for the Argentine Air Force.
As the men arrange and pack documents at the Newport Aeronautical office, the FBI overhears an office bug. “It’s not just a simple job. You are violating export laws,” Bush said, according to Ibbotson. “Fucking a,” Posey replied, and he and Bush continued with their plan.
On the afternoon of February 7, Bush checked three white boxes and a blue suitcase for his trip and entered the boarding area at Los Angeles International Airport. There he was arrested by FBI and US Customs Service agents. Around the same time, in Costa Mesa, the Newport Aeronautical office and Posey’s home were raided by the FBI.
When Posey, Roberta, and their 2-year-old son returned home, they found unmarked FBI vehicles and more than a dozen agents rummaging through their belongings—including the dictionary codebook that Posey used to communicate with Van Vooring.
Posey’s brother Robert, a Newport Aeronautical employee, fielded questions from reporters. “It’s not like we’re really trying to hide anything,” he said Los Angeles Times. “If we were transporting guns or missiles, that would be one thing, but these are books!”
In March, according to Los Angeles Times, Posey was the first person charged under the Anti-Apartheid Act. Bush was also charged with conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act. Vorster, the South African naval attaché, was mentioned in the indictment (but not charged) and reportedly left the country in a hurry. In retirement in South Africa via email, Vorster told WIRED: “I have no personal relationship with these gentlemen and I have never met them.” Bush quickly pleaded guilty to violating the Arms Export Control Act and cooperated with the FBI. However, Posey wanted his day in court.