How an unnamed friendly country helped FBI nab couple offering to sell US’ N-sub secrets


WASHINGTON: In another puzzling espionage case, a consummate Us navy nuclear engineer and his wife were produced in a West Virginia court Tuesday after the FBI arrested them for trying to sell nuclear submarine propulsion technology to an unidentified friendly foreign country.
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology, were arrested by the FBI on Saturday after a nearly year-long sting operation when they were searching for a “dead drop” of information on nuclear propulsion systems that they had offered to a foreign power several months earlier. The anonymous foreign power had reported the offer to the US government through the local FBI liaison, allowing the office to launch a sting operation.
According to the FBI complaint affidavit, on April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government containing a sample of restricted data related to nuclear submarine propulsion systems and instructions to establish a covert relationship for purchase additional restricted data on payment in the form of cryptocurrency. The affidavit also alleges that, thereafter, Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with a person who he believed was a representative of the foreign government, when the person was actually an undercover FBI agent.
On June 8, 2021, according to the FBI affidavit, the undercover agent sent $ 10,000 worth of cryptocurrency to Toebbe as a “good faith” payment. Shortly thereafter, on June 26, the husband and wife team traveled from Annapolis, where they lived, to a location in West Virginia, where with Diana acting as a vigilante, Jonathan placed a hidden SD card inside half a peanut butter sandwich in a fixed “dead drop” pre-location.
A review of the SD card after additional payments in cryptocurrency to secure a decryption key revealed that it contained restricted data related to undersea nuclear reactors, the FBI said. Similar exchanges took place on August 28 and October 9, with data cards containing restricted data hidden in a band-aid wrapper and a pack of gum, before the couple were arrested. a series of television spies, it is the couple who seemed to have led an innocuous suburban life with their two children. They were regarded well by their friends and neighbors, and they had stable, well-paying jobs (Diana taught at an elite private school).
Also intriguing was the identity of the anonymous foreign country that alerted the FBI. In some reports he was described as more of a partner than an ally, which would put India on the short list. Russia, China, France and the UK already have nuclear-powered submarines, and the US and UK have offered the same to Australia. In addition, Australia and Japan are also counted as allies of the United States through treaties. Officials on both sides declined to comment further on the case.
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana, were arrested after a year-long sting operation by undercover FBI agents. Toebbe, 42, a nuclear engineer with top-secret security clearance, is charged with sending naval documents to an unidentified foreign entity in 2020. A court ruled Tuesday that the couple will remain behind bars for now.

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