FBI sting operation accuses couple of trying to sell US nuclear secrets

US Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebe, who had a top-secret security clearance, and his wife Diana were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service in West Virginia on Saturday after the couple allegedly fired a nuclear-powered American Information about the design of battleships was sold. According to a Justice Department statement, a man he believed was a representative of a foreign power, but was in fact an undercover FBI agent.

The Justice Department said Tobey had information on naval nuclear propulsion and sensitive military design elements, including “operational parameters and performance characteristics of reactors for nuclear powered warships.”

An FBI agent justifying the arrest alleged in a criminal complaint that Tobey first offered to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign government in April 2020, and an undercover FBI agent several months later offered to sell nuclear secrets through an encrypted email program. Responded through the medium and corresponded with him. According to the complaint, the agent allegedly worked to gain Tobey’s trust before agreeing to sell information worth thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

According to the complaint, the FBI “conducted an operation in the Washington, DC area that involved placing a signal in an attempt to gain authenticity with ‘Alice’ at a location belonging to the (foreign government)” name Tobe used when writing the email. as a surname.

Tobe was believed to be a “dead drop,” or use a hiding place detective to secretly deliver information, the FBI said, adding that it arrested Jonathan and Diana Saturday after Jonathan “provided” with classified information. put another sd card” At a pre-arranged location in West Virginia. The couple have been charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act, which prohibits anyone with access to classified information, from sharing that information. The complaint claimed that Toebbes “attempted to communicate, transmit, and disclose to any other person with the intention of injuring the United States and securing a profit for a foreign nation.”

It is not clear whether the couple has yet to retain legal advice.

building trust

In a confidence-building move during the lengthy correspondence, the FBI arranges to give Tobey a sign from a building that houses diplomats from an unknown country.

After gaining Toebbe’s trust, the agent tried to persuade Toebbe to meet in person, but Toebbe was worried about being caught. The agent suggested using a dead drop on his chosen spot. In March 2021, Tobe reportedly wrote, “I’m concerned that using your friend’s devised Dead Drop location makes me too vulnerable. If other interested parties are inspecting the location, I’ll be their I will be unable to find out.”

Tobe also said that he was concerned about receiving the cash payment, as serial numbers can be traced, and that he was concerned that “tracking devices and other unpleasant surprises may also be considered,” according to the FBI’s criminal complaint. needed”.

In April 2021, Tobe reportedly wrote, “Is there any physical sign you can do that proves your identity to me? I might be planning to go to Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend. I’m another tourist in the crowd.” Banoonga. Maybe you can hoist the signal flag on your roof? Something is easily seen from the road, but nothing to make the opponents (sic) suspicious?”

The undercover agent replied, “We will set up a street viewable signal from our main building. This will give you comfort with the signal being displayed from an area inside our property that we control and not a [sic] Opponent. If you agree, please accept.”

Tobe instead reportedly suggested using the decentralized cryptocurrency Monero because it “gives us both excellent acceptability.” In an email cited in the complainant, Tobe reportedly said he would deliver an SD card, containing several hundred pages of technical data. Once he confirmed receipt of the cryptocurrency, Tobe reportedly wrote, “I’ll give you the passphrase.”

Tobe also reportedly told the agent that he would never “use the same drop location twice. I’ll give you a new Monero address each time. The decryption key will be different each time. No third party inspection.” The pattern is not there. The only electronic footprints will be proton to proton, so there is less risk of encrypted traffic being collected for future analysis by third parties. That part is not correct. Perhaps as our friendship develops we will over time – Will the addresses change from time to time? ”

In June 2021, Tobey and his wife traveled to West Virginia, where the FBI said Tobey “placed an SD card hidden within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged ‘Dead Drop’ location.”

According to the complaint, after receiving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Tobey a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment, and Tobey responded with a description key for the card. The FBI said it “opened the provided SD card and provided the contents” to a US Navy subject matter expert, who confirmed it contained classified information.

ongoing correspondence

The FBI said Tobey allegedly maintained a relationship with the undercover agent, leading to another dead fall in August 2021 in eastern Virginia, where the FBI kept him under surveillance as he left his home in Annapolis, Maryland. I had gone.

“The FBI viewed the Jonathan Tobey service in Eastern Virginia as a dead fall. The FBI observed that Jonathan Tobey placed an item in the container and removed a written message placed in the container by the FBI,” the complaint said.

“The FBI subsequently opened the SD card and provided the material to a US Navy subject matter expert. The US Navy subject matter expert determined that several documents on the SD card contained restricted data. Specifically, a US Navy subject matter expert determined that The document included schematic designs for a Virginia-class submarine. Virginia-class submarines are nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines that incorporate the latest in stealth, intelligence, and weapons systems technology,” the criminal complaint alleged. Put it.

In another exchange listed in the complaint, Tobe described how he obtained all the classified information, saying, “I was extremely careful to slowly and naturally gather the files I had in the routine of my job. , so no one will doubt my plan. We received training on warning signs to detect inside threats. We made sure not to display one. I don’t believe any of my former colleagues would blame me There will be doubts, if there is any investigation in future.”

He also said, “I have considered the possible need to leave at short notice. If it ever becomes necessary, I will be forever grateful for your help in evacuating me and my family. I think the first Kadam will be an unannounced visit of a safe third. The country is planning to meet your allies. We have passports and cash set aside for this purpose.” He said he hoped such a move would never prove necessary.

Tobe said that he hopes to meet and drink to his foreign handler one day, inadvertently writing to the FBI agent, “Thanks for your partnership too, my friend. One day, when it will be safe, maybe two old friends.” The pass would be a chance to meet each other in a cafe, share a bottle of wine and laugh at the stories of their shared adventures. A good idea, but I agree that our mutual need for security may make it impossible. We meet or not[sic]I will always remember your bravery in serving your country and your commitment to helping me.”


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