A good spy story fixes you up on any given Sunday. As it emerged today, the FBI has arrested an engineer, Jonathan Toebbe (42), and his wife Diana (45) accused of sharing sensitive information about nuclear submarines with foreign powers, according to a complaint registered in the State of West Virginia. Toebbe, says the judicial statement, “has passed and continues to pass data that the Atomic Energy Law considers classified to a government of another country.”
The story has all the elements of a thriller. In December, an FBI agent intercepted a package with a return address in Pittsburgh filled with US Navy secrets, along with a letter and instructions for contacting the alleged informant. The letter requested that sensitive content be shared with the country’s military intelligence agency, whose identity has not been disclosed. “This is not a joke,” the letter concluded.
The FBI agents posed as foreign spies and contacted Toebbe, with whom they proposed to hold a meeting. He refused, alluding that it was too risky, and that his life was at stake.
After several attempts, the engineer finally agreed to an in-person transfer of documents. It took place on June 26 in the town of Jefferson County. Earlier, Toebbe had received a “bona fide payment of $ 10,000 in cryptocurrencies,” almost untraceable currencies. The couple, who are from Annapolis, a sleepy town in the state of Maryland, attended the appointment. The woman acted as a watchdog while the exchange took place.
Like any good spy story, this one also has its humorous edge. When FBI agents opened the package they saw that it contained half a peanut butter sandwich on a 16-gigabyte USB with information on the design and technical specifications of American nuclear submarines. After a second payment of $ 20,000 in cryptocurrencies, the alleged traitor gave them the key to access the USB.
There was a second delivery in August, this time inside a pack of gum, and another payment, of $ 70,000, also in cryptocurrency. At the third appointment, held on Saturday, the arrest occurred.
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“Jonathan Toebbe is an employee of the Navy, and has served as a nuclear engineer attached to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors”, can be read in a document released today by the North District Attorney General’s Office from Virginia. “He had an active national security clearance through the US Department of Defense, which gave him access to restricted data. Toebbe worked on matters related to naval nuclear propulsion and had access to sensitive information on military design, operating parameters and performance characteristics of reactors for nuclear-powered warships ”.
The couple now face charges of conspiracy and disclosure of proprietary information. On Tuesday they are cited before a judge in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
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