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Friday, October 22, 2021

USA. Naval engineer accused of espionage

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An engineer working for the US Navy wanted to sell a foreign country top-secret information on the construction of nuclear submarines, reports the New York Times. This is one of the US Navy’s best-kept secrets, as the reactors are powered by highly enriched uranium, which can also be converted into nuclear bomb fuel. The man and his wife heard the accusation of espionage. The journal does not state which country the defendant was supposed to work for.

According to a newspaper citing court documents, Jonathan Toebbe was accused of trying to sell information about the nuclear propulsion system of US Virginia-class submarines. “While rivals such as Russia and China have long searched for the details of US submarine propulsion, it was unclear whether the unsolicited offer was aimed at an enemy or an ally,” wrote the New York daily.


The NYT pointed out that Toebbe had been working for the military as a civilian since 2017. Initially, he was in active service in the navy. He has been involved in nuclear propulsion since 2012, including technology designed to reduce noise and vibration from submarines that can give away their location.

One of the navy’s most guarded information

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“Classified material included projects that could be useful to a wide variety of submarine-building countries. As part of an agreement with Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom would help the country implement nuclear-powered submarines that are equipped with unlimited-range propulsion systems and they work so quietly that they are difficult to detect “- stated the” NYT “.

As he explained, the nuclear propulsion is one of the most closely guarded information by the US Navy, because their reactors are powered by highly enriched uranium, which can also be converted into nuclear bomb fuel. Until the recent agreement with Australia, the US only shared this technology with the UK.

The USS Jacksonville is a nuclear powered submarine Wikipedia

Engineer accused of espionage

According to court documents, the investigation into the Toebbes case began in December 2020. The FBI obtained a package sent to “another country” with operational instructions, technical details and an offer for covert cooperation.

“Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. (…) I think this information will be of great value to your nation. It is not a scam” – quotes the “NYT” fragment of the manual. As he adds, the broadcaster offered navy secrets in exchange for 100,000. dollars in cryptocurrency. The paper describes how the FBI watched the engineer send information in exchange for payments with the collaboration of his wife, Diana Toebbe. He explains that he hid SD cards with secret data, including in a peanut butter sandwich and a chewing gum packet.

“While working at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, a little-known government research facility in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, Mr. Toebbe may have had access to documents that he is accused of handing over to an undercover FBI agent,” the NYT writes. He quotes an excerpt from the intercepted document, with the assurance that the information “reflects decades of US naval experience that will help keep your seafarers safe.”

Jonathan and his wife, Diana Toebbe, arrested on Saturday are due to appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on Tuesday.

Main photo source: Wikipedia

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