U.S. Navy Engineer Charged in Attempt to Sell Nuclear Submarine Secrets

WASHINGTON — A nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and his spouse have been charged with attempting to share among the United States’ most intently held secrets and techniques on submarine expertise with one other nation, in accordance to court documents unsealed on Sunday.

The engineer, Jonathan Toebbe, was accused of attempting to promote info on the nuclear propulsion system of U.S. Virginia-class assault submarines — the expertise on the coronary heart of a recently announced deal with Britain and Australia.

While rivals like Russia and China have lengthy sought particulars of U.S. submarine propulsion, it was unclear whether or not the unsolicited supply was to an adversary or an ally.

Mr. Toebbe has labored for the army as a civilian since 2017 and was initially a part of the active-duty Navy. He has labored on naval nuclear propulsion since 2012, together with on expertise devised to scale back the noise and vibration of submarines, which can provide away their location.

The labeled materials in query included designs that may very well be helpful to many various nations constructing submarines. In the Australia deal, the United States and Britain would assist the nation to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, that are geared up with nuclear propulsion techniques that provide limitless vary and run so quietly that they’re laborious to detect.

Nuclear propulsion is among the many most intently held info by the U.S. Navy as a result of the reactors are fueled by extremely enriched uranium, which can be transformed to bomb gasoline for nuclear weapons. Building compact, protected naval reactors can also be a troublesome engineering activity. Until the cope with Australia, the United States had shared the expertise with solely Britain, beginning in 1958.

According to the courtroom paperwork, the investigation into the Toebbes started in December 2020, when the F.B.I. obtained a package deal that had been despatched to one other nation with operational manuals, technical particulars and a suggestion to set up a covert relationship. The package deal was intercepted in the opposite nation’s mail system and despatched to an F.B.I. authorized attaché.

“Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency,” a observe in the package deal learn. “I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.”

The F.B.I. adopted the directions in the package deal and commenced an encrypted dialog, in which the sender provided Navy secrets and techniques in return for $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

Over a collection of exchanges, the F.B.I. persuaded the sender to go away info at a lifeless drop in return for cryptocurrency funds. The F.B.I. then noticed Mr. Toebbe and his spouse, Diana Toebbe, on the location of the drop, in West Virginia.

With Ms. Toebbe appearing as a lookout, Mr. Toebbe left an SD card hid inside half a peanut butter sandwich in a plastic bag, in accordance to the courtroom paperwork. After the spy retrieved the sandwich, Mr. Toebbe was despatched $20,000.

Agents then arrange one other lifeless drop in Pennsylvania and a 3rd in Virginia, the place they stated Mr. Toebbe deposited an SD card hid in a package deal of chewing gum.

While working on the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, a little-known authorities analysis facility in West Mifflin, Pa., Mr. Toebbe would have had entry to the paperwork that he’s accused of passing to the undercover F.B.I. officer.

Many of the small print of the exchanges have been redacted in the courtroom paperwork, however there was a reference to scaled drawings and upkeep particulars. One cited a observe, which the paperwork counsel was written by one of many Toebbes, that the knowledge “reflects decades of U.S. Navy ‘lessons learned’ that will help keep your sailors safe.”

The F.B.I. and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on Saturday. They will seem in federal courtroom in Martinsburg, W.V., on Tuesday.

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