Navy engineer and wife, accused of being spies, appear in court

Judge denies bail to Navy engineer and his woke anti-Trump wife as they are charged with ‘selling nuclear sub secrets’ to an unknown foreign power

  • Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and wife, Diana, 45, were charged Saturday with selling secret information to an unidentified foreign country
  • The couple appeared in court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, today and were were ordered detained without bail until a detention hearing on Friday at 11am 
  • A preliminary examination hearing into their case is slated for Wednesday, October, 20, at 1pm
  • Court records show that Toebbe unwittingly communicated with FBI agents about these secrets in a scheme that stretched from December 2020 until now 
  • Toebbe received separate cryptocurrency payments totaling $100,000, according to the Justice Department 
  • He and his wife have been charged with conspiracy and ‘communication of restricted data,’ according to a criminal complaint obtained by Dailymail.com 
  • Diana is a leftist who supports ‘The Resistance’ and Hilary Clinton and posted about ‘stopping Donald Trump ‘, according to her social media posts
  • Their social media accounts also reveal the couple organized a babysitter on Facebook so they could make their last secret drop of stolen intelligence before they were caught by the FBI 

The Navy submarine engineer and his leftist wife who were both charged with spying on the U.S. for an unidentified foreign government were ordered held without bail during a court appearance Tuesday.

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife, Diana, 45, wore jail-issued orange jumpsuits and were handcuffed as they stood before a judge in Martinsburg, West Virginia. 

The couple was scheduled for a detention hearing on Friday at 11am and a preliminary examination into their case was set for October 20, at 1pm. 

The Toebbes, who were given a court-appointed counsel after the hearing, could face either life in prison or a fine of $100,000 and five years of supervised release.  

Jonathan Toebbe allegedly sent a package of classified Navy documents to a foreign government in April 2020 and wrote that he was interested in selling information on Virginia-class nuclear submarine reactors, the FBI wrote in a criminal complaint. 

The unidentified foreign government sat on the documents before turning them over to the US in December 2020, after the election.  

During a sting operation, an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of the foreign government made contact with Toebbe and agreed to pay thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for the information he was offering.  

Emails between the two show that at first Toebbe remained wary but that he came to trust the undercover agent due to the hefty amount he was going to be paid. It was agreed he would receive $100,00 in crypto and was paid $70,000 before he was caught. 

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, appears in court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Tuesday after being  accused of selling military secrets and classified information about nuclear submarines to an unidentified foreign country

Diana Toebbe, 45, was denied bail along with her husband on Tuesday. The two are scheduled to return to court for a detention hearing on Friday

Jonathan Toebbe, pictured in his boking photo at West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority. Federal prosecutors accused him and his wife Diana Toebbe in a plot to sell sensitive U.S. submarine secrets to a foreign government

Diana Toebbe. is pictured in her booking photo at the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority. A West Virginia judge granted a detention request from prosecutors Tuesday, meaning she and her husband will remain behind bars for now

The FBI also arranged a ‘signal’ to Toebbe from the country’s embassy in Washington over the Memorial Day weekend. The papers do not describe how the FBI was able to arrange such a signal.

In June 2021, the FBI says, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe, describing it as a sign of good faith and trust.

Weeks later, federal agents watched as the Toebbes arrived at an agreed-upon location in West Virginia for the exchange, with Diana Toebbe appearing to serve as a lookout for her husband during a dead-drop operation for which the FBI paid $20,000, according to the complaint.

The FBI recovered a blue memory card wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a peanut butter sandwich, court documents said.

Jonathan also hid encrypted memory cards in a chewing gum packet and Band-Aide wrapper at different drop-off locations.  

The FBI provided the contents of the memory card to a Navy subject matter expert who determined that the records included design elements and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors, the Justice Department said.

The FBI conducted similar dead-drop exchanges over the next several months, including one in August in Virginia in which Toebbe was paid roughly $70,000 and concealed in a chewing gum package a memory card that contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine, according to court documents.

The alleged submarine spies: Diane Toebbe (left) and her husband Jonathan (right) were arrested and charged with selling information on Virginia-class nuclear submarine reactors to an unidentified foreign government

One memory card included a typed message that said, in part: ‘I hope your experts are very happy with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a small exchange to grow our trust.’

Many of the emails that were exchanged between Toebbe and the representative of the foreign country were transcribed in the court documents. He used two pseudonyms: Alice Hill and Bob Burns.

The messages suggest that Toebbe was offering the classified information to a power that already has nuclear submarines.

Toebbe states in one message that the information ‘reflects decades of U.S. Navy ‘lessons learned’ that will help keep your sailors safe.’

Only six countries currently operate nuclear-powered submarines — China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US. The US and UK are set to provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, as part of the first initiative under the new trilateral security partnership AUKUS.

Prior to the new deal, which ignited a diplomatic row between Washington and Paris, the US had only shared the technology of its submarines with Britain. Each of these underwater craft costs an estimated $3billion to build.

The country the Toebbes were allegedly trying to sell the nuclear secrets to is not clear and neither are their motivations. 

However, court documents suggest that the country was most likely an ally or neutral government because it cooperated with the FBI during the sting operation to expose the Toebbes. 

The unidentified foreign government sat on the documents before turning them over to the US in December 2020, after the election. The FBI then conducted a sting operation to catch the Toebbes attempting to spill more government secrets  

The leaked secrets contained ‘militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors,’ according to a federal court affidavit

Some experts suggested that the Toebbes were trying to sell the information to France, but French officials said they were not involved in the incident, according to the New York Times. 

Toebbe has worked on naval nuclear propulsion since 2012, including secret technology devised to reduce the noise and vibration of submarines, factors that can give away their location. 

He first worked on naval reactors in Arlington, Virginia, from 2012 to 2014. He then was a student at naval reactor school in Pittsburgh before returning to Arlington to work on reactors again.

According to public Navy records, he worked for 15 months in the office of the chief of naval operations, the top officer in the military’s branch.  

He started working in the military as a civilian in 2017. He was commissioned in the Navy and rose to the rank of lieutenant before moving to the Navy Rescue, which he left in December 2020 — the month the FBI established contact with him.   

Toebbe stated in one message to the foreign government that he had hoped its officials would be able to extract him and his family if he was ever tracked down, saying ‘we have passports and cash set aside for this purpose.’

Authorities say he provided instructions for how to conduct the furtive relationship, with a letter that said: ‘I apologize for this poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.’   

The criminal complaint alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.

It is unclear how many counts the couple, who have two children and live in Annapolis, Maryland, face. However, espionage carries a maximum sentence of ten years under US law.      

The residence of Jonathan and Diana Toebbe is shown on Sunday in Annapolis, Maryland, a day after it was searched by FBI agents

A bird’s eye show of Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory lab, where the FBI claims is the only place where Toebbe could have obtained the classified information on US nuclear subs. Toebbe has worked on naval nuclear propulsion since 2012, including a 15-month tenure in the office of the chief of naval operations

Diana Toebbe, meanwhile, was a humanities teacher at the Key School, a private school in Annapolis, for the past ten years. The K-12 school said on Sunday that she had been suspended indefinitely.  

Former graduates and current employees described Diana as a strong feminist and very liberal.

However, he said she was shocked by Trump’s 2016 election and mentioned several times the possibility of moving to Australia — one of six countries that currently possesses nuclear submarines.

Craig Martien, 20, a 2019 alum who collaborated with Diana on a yearbook and an after-school anthropology club, said she was ‘insanely smart’.

‘She said she couldn’t stand the current state of politics and actually had found some job opportunities over there,’ he said.

On her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Diana shared pictures of her dogs, her family and selfies – a far cry from her alleged life as a spy. But some posts revealed that she was unhappy with the government and her country.

And one post on her on Facebook page reveals that she organized a babysitter while she and her husband made their last secret drop of stolen intelligence before they were caught by the FBI. 

This year, on July 28, she asked for a babysitter on Facebook to watch her children early on Saturday morning for up to five to six hours. 

She then posted an update to the original post, only visible to friends, with the word ‘*FOUND*’, implying a babysitter had been organized. 

She and her husband then left their home in Annapolis, Maryland, unaware they were being watched by the FBI. 

Other posts reveal show that she was a staunch liberal who supported ‘The Resistance,’ once retweeting that ‘America is Temporarily Out of Order’ while Trump was president.  

The social media posts on Diana Toebbe’s Facebook account include one saying ‘Women Can Stop Trump’

One retweet from the her account in 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, shows a photo saying, ‘To the rest of the world, due to an insufficient amount of moral courage, America is temporarily out of order. We hope to restore service as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we in the resistance movement join hands with those around the world who realize we are one people. May the forces of good be with us. #TheResistance.’

She supported liberal ideologies, including the Black Lives Matter movement. Her profile picture reads ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and a post last year celebrating the social media protest against racism called ‘#blackouttuesday.’ 

One post she shared in 2019 is a photo from an unidentified Women’s March overlaid with the quote, ‘Stay angry, little Meg. You will need all your anger now,’ from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  

The accounts her Twitter profile follows are mostly ‘resistance’ accounts in protest of Trump, including the ‘Rogue NASA’ account described as ‘the unofficial “Resistance” team of NASA’ on its bio description. 

In 2016, she retweeted a post from liberal activist group MoveOn about former First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech criticism of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump for his treatment of women. 

One retweet in 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, shows a picture caption:, ‘To the rest of the world, due to an insufficient amount of moral courage, America is temporarily out of order. We hope to restore service as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we in the resistance movement join hands with those around the world who realize we are one people. May the forces of good be with us. #TheResistance.’

Around the same time, she retweeted a post from self-proclaimed ‘activist against Islamophobia’ CJ Werleman which included a video of an Iranian-American discussing Trump’s travel ban with the caption, ‘Watch this video and then try to describe immigrants in dehumanizing terms such as “waves” or “floods.” ‘ 

She followed up with another tweet from an account called ALT DOJ, which describes itself as the ‘Resistance’ Department of Justice, that included a photo of people protesting the travel ban outside then-Senator Orrin Hatch’s office at the Capitol. 

It’s caption read: ‘Scene in front of Hatch’s office right now. capitol police threatening arrests for seated protesters! #RESIST #TheResistance #MuslimBan’

Diana also retweeted an anti-trump tweet from TED Talk follower and cosmologist Katie Mack, saying the Trump administration suppressed LGBT right

One post she shared in 2019 is a photo from an unidentified Women’s March with the above quote about ‘staying angry’

One Facebook post on Diana’s account said ‘Women Can Stop Trump;’ while other profile pictures feature failed 2016 presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s campaign symbol; a photo of the transgender flag; and various profile photos supporting the LGBTQ+ community. 

Meanwhile, her husband appears to be a wannabe medieval swashbuckler who took sword-fighting classes and owned his own swords.

About two months after Jonathan allegedly sent a package of secret Navy information to a foreign contact, he boasted about buying a new sword to members of the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historic Swordsmanship on Facebook.

‘[That feeling when] a box from Amazon and Purpleheart Armoury arrive on the same day,’ Toebbe wrote on the society’s Facebook page, while also posting a photo of a new sleek sword, medieval-style armor and a book titled ‘The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship.’

‘New sword day is always a good day,’ he added in 2020. 

The group’s founder, Larry Tom, told the New York Post that he knew Toebbe in the ‘context’ of historic swordplay.

Jonathan also attended classes at the group’s nearby center.

He was listed as a student of longswords, bucklers and rapiers on the group’s Facebook page, which seems to have been deleted or frozen as of Monday. 

Jonathan’s Facebook account’s most recent public post is from 2013. The posts included stories from satire site, The Onion, including one headline he posted in 2011, reading, ‘New GOP Strategy Involves Reelecting Obama, Making His Life Even More Miserable.’   

No one answered at the Toebbe residence on Sunday afternoon in a waterside Annapolis community by the South River. 

An outside light was on above the door of their home, and a dog barked inside.

John Cooley, who lives across the street from the Toebbes, said he counted more than 30 FBI agents on his block on Saturday from about 2.30 p.m. until after dark. He said agents went inside the home. 

Jerry LaFleur, a neighbor of the Toebbes, said he would occasionally waive to the Toebbes, but the only time they spoke was when to ask permission to trim the weeds on the family’s side of the backyard fence they share.

‘He seemed like a nice, ordinary guy, nothing that would make me think twice,’ Mr. LaFleur said.  

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Toebbes, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, have lawyers. The Navy declined to comment to the Associated Press on Sunday. 

The Toebbe’s arrest has already been compared to Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence analyst who served 30 years in jail for selling navy secrets to Israel. 

He is the only American in US history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally, and the only one to serve more than 10 years in prison for the crime.  

Emails exchanged between Jonathan Toebbe and FBI agent posing as representative of unidentified country 

On December 26, 2020, the FBI initiated the first of several emails to ‘ALICE’ on ProtonMail. The FBI utilized a ProtonMail account utilizing the pseudo name ‘BOB.’ The email stated, ‘We received your letter. We want to work with you. It has been many months, so we need to know if you are still out there. Please respond to this message, then we will provide instructions on how to proceed.’ 

On February 10, 2021, ‘ALICE’ responded and stated, ‘Thank you for contacting me. I am still here. The covid disease has made it more difficult to find chances to check this email. Let us discuss how to proceed.’

On February 24, 2021, an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity (‘the UC’) responded and stated, ‘We understand the delay and hope you are well. Our experts reviewed the information you provided. We would like to sample your [US. Navy Information — Specific Sections].’ We have a trusted friend in your country who has a gift for you to compensate for your efforts…

On March 5, 2021, ‘ALICE’ replied with the following. ‘ I am uncomfortable with this arrangement. Face to face meetings are very risky for me, as I am sure you understand. I propose exchanging gifts electronically, for mutual safety. I can upload documents to a secure cloud storage account, encrypted with the key I have provided you. You can send me a suitable gift in Monero cryptocurrency to an address I will provide. 100,000 usd should be enough to prove to me that you are not an unwelcome third party looking to make trouble for me. When I have confirmed receipt of your gift, I will provide you with the download link. We are both protected. I understand this is a large request. However, please remember I am risking my life for your benefit and I have taken the first step. Please help me trust you fully.’

On March 18, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 wrote, ‘We understand a face to face meeting would be uncomfortable. We suggest a neutral drop location. When you visit the location alone, you retrieve a g~fi and leave behind the sample we request. We hope to have a very long friendship that benefits mutually.’

On March 22, 2021, ‘ALICE’ replied. ‘I understand your proposal to start a dead drop. I am concerned that using a dead drop location your friend prepares makes me very vulnerable. If other interested parties are observing the location, I will be unable to detect them. I am not a professional, and do not have a team supporting me. I am also concerned that a physical gift would be very difficult to explain if I am questioned. For now, I must consider the possibility that you are not the person I hope you are. It would be very easy for the serial numbers of bills to be recorded. Tracking devices and other nasty surprises must be considered as well. I propose to mod~ your plan in the following ways:

1. I will place the sample you requested on a memory card and place it in a drop location of my choosing… . I am not a professional and I am sure that publicly available information on this subject is incomplete.

2. The samples will be encrypted using GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly generated passphrase.

3. I will tell you the location and how to find the card. I will also give you a Monero address. This form of gift protects both of us very well. I am very aware of the risks of blockchain analysis of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies, and believe Monero gives both of us excellent deniability.

4. Once I confirm receipt of my gift, I will give you the passphrase.

Your friend and I will never go to the same drop location twice. I will give you a new Monero address each time. The decryption key will be different each time. No patterns for third parties to observe. 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 perfect. Perhaps as our friendship develops we will change addresses periodically?’

On April 1, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 responded to ‘ALICE’ and stated, ‘We understand your concern and appreciate the thoughtful plan… as a sign of good faith and trust we wish to pay you the equivalent of 10,000 USD immediately on Monero to address you provided.

Drop locations are safest and allow us to make exchanges without coming in contact and of course leave no electronic footprint… Your proposed method of memory card with encryption/passphrases is acceptable. For the small sample we requested you will receive another 20,000 USD. Once you confirm Monero address we will activate payment. Our next step will be information on the drop location we have selected. This method will build trust between usfor a larger transaction in future. Our experts are interested in the information you have but we insist on maintaining our discretion and security as a priority.’

On April 9, 2021, ‘ALICE’ wrote, ‘I am sorry to be so stubborn and untrusting, but I can not agree to go to a location of your choosing. I must consider the possibility that l am communicating with an adversary who has intercepted my first message and is attempting to expose me. Would not such an adversary wish me to go to a place of his choosing, knowing that an amateur will be unlikely to detect his surveillance? If you insist on physically delivering the package, then it must be a place of my choosing.

I ask you to consider the viability of an electronic dead drop. I can establish an encrypted online storage account without providing any identifying information and without provoking any suspicion…Another possibility occurs to me: is there some physical signal you can make that proves your identity to me? I could plan to visit Washington D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend. I would just be another tourist in the crowd. Perhaps you could fly a signal flag on your roof? Something easily observable from the street, but nothing to arouse an adversary’s suspicion?… ‘.

On April 23, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 emailed the following: ‘You do not need to apologize. We appreciate you being careful. That is much better than someone reckless. Your thoughtful plans indicate you are not amateur. This relationship requires mutual comfort. There is risk on both sides and we understand your need for safety assurance of who you are communicating with. As you suggest we can accommodate a signal in Washington D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend. We will set a signal from our main building observable from the street. It will bring you comfort with signals on display from the area inside our property that we control and not a [sic] adversary. If you agree please acknowledge. We will then provide more instruction about the signal. We hope this plan will continue to build the necessary trust and comfort of our identity.’

On May 5, 2021 ‘ALICE’ wrote, ‘I will make plans to be in the capitol [sic] over the Memorial Day weekend. It would be best to leave the signal visible for the entire holiday weekend so I can plan to pass by in the natural course of my tourist day. I may be on foot or passing by in a bus or car or bicycle, so please plan for something easy to spot.

On May 17, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 responded and said, in part, ‘We are happy to set a signal to bring you comfort and build necessary trust between us. The signal will be inside our main building from Saturday morning until Sunday evening Memorial Day weekend.’

During the weekend of May 29-30, 2021, the FBI conducted an operation in the Washington, D.C. area that involved placing a signal at a location associated with COUNTRY1 in an attempted effort to gain bona fides with ‘ALICE.’

On May 31, 2021, the FBI received confirmation via the ProtonMail from ‘ALICE’ that the signal was received. ‘ALICE’ also wrote that, ‘Now Jam comfortably telling you your assumption that Pittsburgh would be a convenient location for me is incorrect.. for now I can tell you I am located near Baltimore, Maryland. Please let me know when you are ready to proceed with our first exchange. Once you have dropped location details for me, I will give you the Monero address and prepare the sample you have requested.’ ‘ALICE’ went on to request clarity of the U.S. Navy information requested by the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1.

On June 4, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 requested the Monero address to provide ‘ALICE’ a payment of $10,000 USD as a sign of good faith and trust. The UC also informed ‘ALICE’ that new communication instructions would be provided at the exchange location.

On June 8, 2021, ‘ALICE’ wrote that, ‘For maximum security it is very important that you do not send Monero to the same address twice.’ ‘ALICE’ then provided the FBI with a payment address. ‘ALICE’ then went on to state, ‘I will place information you have requested~ encrypted, on a memory card along with the address for the second payment you offered in a plain text file. After I confirm the second payment I will provide you with the decryption passphrase using the new communication method. I am also excited to continue our relationship…’

On June 10, 2021, the FBI paid ‘ALICE’ approximately $10,000 USD in Monero cryptocurrency.

On June 17, 2021, ‘ALICE’ thanked the FBI for the first payment and stated that he/she was ‘eagerly waiting for your instructions.’

On June 18, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 emailed ‘ALICE’ to provide detailed instructions on servicing a dead drop location in Jefferson County, West Virginia to occur on June 26, 2021.

The UC discussed instructions regarding the next payment to ‘ALICE’ as well as additional assurance that ‘ALICE’ would be paid $20,000 upon the sample verification and authenticity of the information provided at the drop location.

On June 23, 2021, ‘ALICE’ sent the FBI a confirmation email stating, ‘I understand your instructions and am ready to move forward.’

On June 26, 2021, at approximately 10.41 a.m., the FBI observed Jonathan Toebbe physically service a dead drop location in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Records show that Jonathan Toebbe is a government employee working as a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy and holds an active Top Secret Security Clearance through the United States Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the United States Department of Energy.

How the US Navy’s deadly Virginia-class submarine stacks up

Submarines are quiet, deadly and expensive. Boats like those in the Virginia class, which is a U.S. attack submarine, can cost $3.4 billion and take up to seven years to build. 

An attack submarine, also called a hunter-killer, is a submarine specifically designed to attack and sink other submarines, surface naval warships and sometimes merchant ships.  

Virginia-class submarines can move 25+ knots. These boats are among the quietest and are equipped with high-end sensors, giving the US Navy a degree of acoustic superiority in the undersea battlespace.

They are also equipped with 12 vertical missile launch tubes and four 533mm torpedo tubes. They can launch 65 missiles and torpedos, including 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles (SLCM), in a single salvo. 

The Virginia-class submarine can strike missiles up to 550-600 mph and its costs is $3.5 billion per unit

Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost $1.8 million per unit, are a precision weapon that launches from ships and submarines and can strike targets precisely from 1,000 miles away, even in heavily defended airspace. 

There is also capacity for up to 26 MK 48 MOD 6 heavyweight torpedoes ($2.5 million per unit), and Harpoon anti-ship missiles ($1.4 million per unit) to be fired from the 21 inches torpedo tubes. 

MK 60 CAPTOR mines can also be deployed from the subs. 

Virginia-class submarines can stay submerged for up to three months at a time. 

Additionally, these subs can also be used to deploy unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV).  UUVs have been used since the 1970s for mine countermeasures work and more recently environmental monitoring, including finding out open-water temperatures.

They have unlimited range, and the reactor core, which uses highly-enriched uranium, does not require refueling for the life of the ship, which is more than three decades

The most recent types of Virginia-class submarines (Block V) are one of the largest submarines to ever be built, with the length increased from 377 feet to 460 feet, and with greater displacement from 7,800 tons to 10,200 tons. 

As a result, the Block V versions of the Virginia-class are the second-largest US submarines produced behind only the Ohio-class.

Virginia-class submarines are designed for the future as they are expected to be acquired through 2043 and expected to remain in service until at least 2060, perhaps even into the 2070s.  

To date, 19 of the planned US 66 Virginia-class attack submarines have been completed since its launch in December 2019, while 11 more are now under construction. They can fit up to 135 people (15 officers; 120 enlisted).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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