Navy nuclear engineer accused of attempting to sell submarine secrets pleads not guilty

Navy engineer, wife accused of selling submarine info in peanut butter sandwich

Former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland expressed her doubt over the possibility the couple was selling the information to China.

The Navy nuclear engineer accused of attempting to pass Navy secrets to a foreign government pleaded not guilty on national security charges.

Jonathan Toebbe pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in a West Virginia federal courtroom, Fox News learned. 

Both he and his wife, Diana Toebbe, were indicted by a Grand Jury Tuesday on national security charges. They were charged with one count each of “Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data” and two counts of “Communication of Restricted Data,” the Department of Justice said in a press release on Tuesday. 

The couple was arrested on Oct. 9 in West Virginia following a sting operation carried out by undercover FBI agents. 

An unsealed criminal complaint alleges that Jonathan Toebbe contacted a foreign nation in April 2020 to sell U.S. Navy submarine secrets. The FBI, however, obtained Toebbe’s documents and began communicating with him undercover in December. 

The Toebbes hid data cards in items such as a peanut butter sandwich, a Band-Aid wrapper, and a chewing gum package, so the information could be picked up by who they believed was a foreign spy operative, authorities said. 

Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe faced a judge in Martinsburg, West Virginia regarding the charges they’re facing. WV Regional Jail and Correctiona
(WV Regional Jail and Correctiona)

Diana Toebbe is accused of “acting as a lookout” as her husband dropped off the material. 

“Although most spy cases don’t involve peanut butter and Band-Aids, the facts alleged follow a familiar pattern: Insider within the U.S. government approaches a foreign power to sell U.S. secrets for money, is compromised despite their best efforts at tradecraft, and — to their surprise — is subsequently arrested,” David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department official, told the Washington Post earlier this month. 

Prosecutors allege that Jonathan Toebbe also told his contact person that he might need to leave the country on short notice. 

“Should that ever become necessary, I will be forever grateful for your help extracting me and my family,” the document quoted him as writing. “I surmise the first step would be unannounced travel to a safe third country with plans to meet your colleagues. We have passports and cash set aside for this purpose.”

“Unfortunately there always will be people willing to compromise our nation’s security for personal gain. It’s treasonous, it’s rare, but such individuals are traitors and should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” former acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told Fox News last week.

The residence of Jonathan and Diana Toebbe is shown on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021 in Annapolis, Md., a day after neighbors say the house was searched by FBI agents. Jonathan Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer, has been charged with trying to pass information about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. His wife also was arrested. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
((AP Photo/Brian Witte))

“Our nuclear submarine force provides a significant military capability for the United States. It is a capability our adversaries both covet and fear. Information related to it must be protected – and for the most part, it is,” he added. 

Fox News also examined the Toebbes’ social media accounts earlier this month and found Diana Toebbe’s accounts featured repeated posts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, including a profile picture reading, “Black Lives Matter,” and followed various “resistance” accounts in protest of former President Donald Trump.

Diana Toebbe is a teacher at the private Key School in Annapolis, Maryland, which indefinitely suspended her after her arrest. 

One neighbor of the couple in Annapolis described them as quiet, according to a recent interview with Fox News. 

“They didn’t talk to anybody, even on the block,” neighbor Jennifer McCormick said. “We’ve lived here over 20 years. They moved here in 2014 and been up and down this block so many times. And we would see them and never even say, hi, don’t even like catch your eye.”

This is a breaking post and will be updated.

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