Why are we even talking about this?
The prof was either a complete idiot (and should put his Ph.D. back in the cereal box he got it from) or intentionally broke the law as some act of defiance.
What is unclear?
He knows he's working on a "secret" project used by the military. He probably got told 6 ways through Sunday he can't talk about it. And he goes to jail because he did what he was told to not do.
To say he should not get jail time, or that he's from an academic world, defies logic and COMMON SENSE. Gee, this is a secret military project, I think I'll not only take the data/laptop to China, but I'll share it with Chinese and Iranian students. Gimme a break. It makes no sense. It's much more likely, IMHO, that he was giving a one-finger salute to the US. Even if he weren't, he's a moron, and ignorance of the law is not a valid defence.