Jonathan Toebbe, a navy nuclear engineer and employee of the department has been arrested for allegedly disclosing the information containing the design of the nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarine, “Restricted Data concerning the design of a nuclear-powered warship”, United States Department of Justice announced about the news.
The correspondence was shared with an FBI legal attaché, who found himself reading a letter written by Toebbe in April 2020. The message included papers from the US Navy as well as for instructions on how to create a safe channel between Toebbe and a foreign country.
“Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation,” the letter stated, helpfully adding “This is not a hoax” – because it kind of reads like it would be.
Toebbe looks to have been dragged along by the FBI. Toebbe and his wife Diana put the essential information onto an SD card and left it at a dead drop after some shady back-and-forth, plenty of encrypted emails, and a $10,000 bitcoin payment.
It was stated in DoJ’s criminal complaint that, “The SD card was wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a half of a peanut butter sandwich,”
Later, another SD card was supplied, this time concealed within a package of chewing gum. Toebbe was then handed another $70,000 in cryptocurrency.
Toebbe sent a decryption key after each delivery. The cards were found to contain “Restricted Data relating to submarine nuclear reactors,” according to the FBI.
On October 9th, the Toebbes were detained and charged.
The accused couple spoke with their “buyer” via ProtonMail and used the alias “Alice” in their emails. In response, the FBI adopted the pseudonym “Bob,” demonstrating a smidgeon of network and crypto expertise.
Bob’s information was well received by the Toebbes, especially when preparations for dead drops were offered, and they praised their buyer’s attention to detail.
The FBI also kept the duo onside by paying them well – $110,000 in Monero was sent from the Bureau to the Toebbes, who recommended the cryptocurrency because it provided “excellent deniability.”