WASHINGTON — A nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and his spouse have been charged with attempting to share among the United States’ most carefully held secrets and techniques on submarine know-how with one other nation, in line with court documents unsealed on Sunday.
The engineer, Jonathan Toebbe, was accused of attempting to promote data on the nuclear propulsion system of U.S. Virginia-class assault submarines — the know-how on the coronary heart of a recently announced deal with Britain and Australia.
Whereas 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 know-how devised to scale back the noise and vibration of submarines, which may give away their location.
The labeled materials in query included designs that could possibly be helpful to many various international locations constructing submarines. Within the Australia deal, the USA and Britain would assist the nation to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, that are geared up with nuclear propulsion techniques that supply limitless vary and run so quietly that they’re onerous to detect.
Nuclear propulsion is among the many most carefully held data by the U.S. Navy as a result of the reactors are fueled by extremely enriched uranium, which can be transformed to bomb gas for nuclear weapons. Constructing compact, protected naval reactors can be a troublesome engineering activity. Till the take care of Australia, the USA had shared the know-how with solely Britain, beginning in 1958.
In keeping with 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 a different nation with operational manuals, technical particulars and a suggestion to ascertain a covert relationship. The package deal was intercepted within the different nation’s mail system and despatched to an F.B.I. authorized attaché.
“Please ahead this letter to your army intelligence company,” a observe within the package deal learn. “I imagine this data shall be of nice worth to your nation. This isn’t a hoax.”
The F.B.I. adopted the directions within the package deal and started an encrypted dialog, through which the sender supplied Navy secrets and techniques in return for $100,000 in cryptocurrency.
Over a sequence of exchanges, the F.B.I. persuaded the sender to go away data 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 performing as a lookout, Mr. Toebbe left an SD card hid inside half a peanut butter sandwich in a plastic bag, in line with the courtroom paperwork. After the spy retrieved the sandwich, Mr. Toebbe was despatched $20,000.
Brokers then arrange one other lifeless drop in Pennsylvania and a 3rd in Virginia, the place they mentioned Mr. Toebbe deposited an SD card hid in a package deal of chewing gum.
Whereas working on the Bettis Atomic Energy 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.
Most of the particulars of the exchanges had been redacted within the courtroom paperwork, however there was a reference to scaled drawings and upkeep particulars. One cited a observe, which the paperwork recommend was written by one of many Toebbes, that the data “displays a long time of U.S. Navy ‘classes realized’ that may assist maintain your sailors protected.”
The F.B.I. and the Naval Felony Investigative Companies arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on Saturday. They may seem in federal courtroom in Martinsburg, W.V., on Tuesday.