Navy nuclear engineer charged after trying to sell U.S. military secrets to foreign government

An Annapolis Navy nuclear engineer and his wife have been charged with trying to pass information about the U.S. military to a foreign government.

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According to a criminal complaint detailing the espionage-related charges against Jonathan Toebbe, the government said he sold information for the past year to a contact he believed represented a foreign power.

Toebbe was arrested in West Virginia with his wife Diana after he allegedly placed a memory card at a prearranged dead drop in a park in a sandwich.

Historian for the International Spy Museum Dr. Andrew Hammond, who is also a former British intelligence official, says U.S. officials are now trying to figure out exactly how many secrets were taken.

"It’s damage limitation at this point," Dr. Hammond says. "What’s the best possible outcome given where we are? The whole process of looking back and seeing where things can be tightened up and changed, that will take place. But at this minute, it’s about damage limitation."

The FBI says the scheme began in April 2020 when Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government.

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He was interested in selling operations manuals, performance reports and other secret information to that country, according to the Department of Justice.

The government Toebbe was involved with was not disclosed, but last summer, FBI Director Chris Wray warned that China was engaged in massive espionage to steal U.S. data and financial, business and military secrets.

"Our folks at the FBI are working their tails off every day to protect our nation’s companies, our universities, our computer networks and our ideas and innovation," Wray said at the Hudson Institute last year. "To do that, we’re using a broad set of techniques—from our traditional law enforcement authorities to our intelligence capabilities." 


The U.S. Navy has not yet commented on this case. Toebbe's wife Diana is a teacher at The Key School in Annapolis, who said she is suspended immediately. 

The couple is set to appear in federal court Tuesday morning in West Virginia.