US charges couple with attempting to sell secrets to unidentified foreign country

SSN-774 Virginia class submarine

AUTHORITIES IN THE UNITED States have charged a married couple with contacting a foreign power and trying to sell it military secrets, which some reports describe as “some of the United States’ most closely held”. Court documents unsealed on Sunday identify the couple as Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, of Annapolis, Maryland. The husband is reportedly a nuclear engineer who has been working on naval nuclear propulsion for at least a decade.

From 2017 until 2020, Toebbe worked for the United States military as a civilian nuclear engineer. He had a top-secret clearance and even worked for over a year out of the office of the Chief of Naval Operations —the head of the US Navy, who is typically an admiral. Toebbe reportedly left his government post in December of 2020. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a few months earlier he had sent a letter to a foreign government offering military secrets in return for money.

The US government claims that, in April of 2020, Toebbe sent a letter to a foreign government with a note asking its recipient to “please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency”. The note added: “I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax”. However, the recipient of the letter forwarded the letter to the FBI, which proceeded to launch a sting operation targeting Toebbe. FBI special agents contacted Toebbe pretending to be representatives of the foreign government he had tried to contact by mail.

In a series of messages he exchanged with the FBI special agents, the nuclear engineer offered to share classified information relating to nuclear submarine propulsion, in exchange for $100,000 in cryptocurrency. According to the court documents, the information related to the propulsion system of the US Navy’s SSN-774 “Virginia” class submarines, which, according to The New York Times, is among “the United States’ most closely held secrets on submarine technology”.

Notably, the FBI affidavit does not identify the country that Toebbe attempted to solicit payments from. Given the fact that the country Toebbe had in mind voluntarily shared the information with the FBI, it is possible that it may be a Western country, rather than a country with which Washington has traditionally had adversarial relations. It is also important to note that the SSN-774 class submarine was at the heart of a recent diplomatic controversy between the United States, Australia and France.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 October 2021 | Permalink

3 Responses to US charges couple with attempting to sell secrets to unidentified foreign country

  1. Mike S Goodmann says:

    In the Complaint, Toebbe indicates that he was initiating communication with the country involved in a language other than English. By process of elimination, that might leave France as the country which he contacted.

  2. Keith McAfee says:

    The original article is very vague in the context of the supposed country the accused first tried to contact. In all probability, this was done for security reasons. The receiving country, because of the “Tradecraft” used leads one to believe it was the Big Bear and their Military intelligence Directorate, the GRU.

  3. xenonman says:

    Did the Toebbe’s know any Russian?

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