Lawyers for the wife of a U.S. Navy nuclear engineer accused of attempting to sell nuclear secrets have claimed that she never wanted to escape the country – but just wanted to flee Donald Trump.
Diana Toebbe, 45, and her husband Jonathan, 42, were arrested in October and charged with selling secret information about nuclear submarines to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an operative for a foreign country.
The foreign country is not specified.
The couple is currently in jail and, arguing that they should be held without bail, prosecutors had shown a judge a text message conversation in which Jonathan Toebbe says to his wife: ‘We’ve got passports, and some savings. In a real pinch we can flee.’
She responds: ‘Right. Let’s go sooner rather than later.’
Diana and Jonathan Toebbes are seen in their mugshots, following their arrest in Virginia in October. A judge is currently considering her bail application
Diane Toebbe (left) and Jonathan Toebbe (right) are both accused of being involved in a plot to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign power for $100,000 in cryptocurrency
On Wednesday, her lawyers argued in court papers that she never intended to flee, but just wanted to live under a different government.
The March 7, 2019 conversation, according to NBC, showed the Toebbes deciding their next move.
Diana says: ‘We need to get out.
‘To anywhere. To do something else. To teach in international schools. To take Macron up on his offer to harbor scientific refugees.
Her husband, seemingly reluctant to leave the U.S., tries to reassure her that the Trump administration will soon be over, saying that ‘Biden/Warren’ will defeat Trump at the election.
Diana Toebbe, a teacher, was suspended from her school following her arrest
She replies: ‘WE NEED TO GET OUT. Hilary (sic) was going to curb stomp trump. I’m done.’
Her husband tries to reassure her, saying that one of Trump’s closest advisors – his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort – had been sentenced to prison, and Trump was likely to face trouble from Robert Mueller’s report into Russian involvement in the election.
‘Baby, I don’t get what’s triggering this now — Manafort’s going away. The Mueller report is coming Real Soon™,’ he said.
She replied: ‘It’s been too long. Nothing has changed. He’s still in power,’ and points out that ‘Manafort got a slap on the wrist. It’s a signal that the entire system is rigged.’
Jonathan Toebbe responds: ‘We’ve got passports, and some savings. In a real pinch we can flee quickly.’
His wife says: ‘Right. Let’s go sooner than later.’
He then says he does not ‘want to go back to making $50k a year. Especially not in a country where we don’t know the language.’
As a nuclear engineer in the Navy, he was paid $153,000 a year, and his wife was earning $60,000 a year.
Diana Toebbe is pictured in court on October 12 in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Jonathan Toebbe is seen at his first court hearing, on October 12
Jonathan Toebbe said his nuclear engineering degree ‘is basically worthless overseas,’ because the commercial nuclear industry is ‘dead.’
Undaunted, she replies: ‘I cannot believe that the two of us wouldn’t be welcomed and rewarded by a foreign govt.’
Her lawyers insist that she was unaware of his scheme, and in the documents filed on Wednesday they state that she ‘has reason to believe that her husband has also informed the government that she was not involved in his alleged scheme to sell classified information.’
After her detention hearing, the document says, Diana Toebbe’s father received a letter from her husband, saying: ‘I have high hopes that Diana will ultimately be exonerated.’
Prosecutors have not yet responded to the filing.
They have argued that Diana Toebbe was deeply involved in her husband’s scheme and acted as a lookout while he left classified material for a person he thought was a foreign agent.
They point out that Jonathan Toebbe also wrote in a message to the person he thought was his handler — who was actually an FBI agent— that ‘there is only one other person with knowledge’ of their arrangement. That person, the government alleges, was Diana Toebbe.
Prosecutors said Jonathan Toebbe, who worked on the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, mailed a package of classified information in April 2020 to representatives of a foreign country, offering to reveal many more secrets in exchange for up to $5 million in cryptocurrency.
He wrote that he was interested in selling information on Virginia-class nuclear submarine reactors.
The unidentified foreign government sat on the documents before turning them over to the U.S. in December 2020, after the election.
PICTURED: Diane Toebbe, 45, and Jonathan Toebbe, 42, were charged with espionage and violation of the Atomic Energy Act after the FBI received a package from an unidentified foreign country saying it had received sensitive classified information on American nuclear submarines in December 2020, a month after President Biden was elected
Toebbe was arrested in West Virginia in October along with his wife, a teacher, after he had placed a removable memory card at a prearranged ‘dead drop’ in the state, according to the Justice Department.
He hid encrypted memory cards in a peanut butter sandwich, a chewing gum packet and band-aid wrapper.
Toebbe worked for 15 months in the office of the chief of naval operations, the top officer in the military’s branch.
He 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.
Toebbe stated in one message that he had hoped the foreign government 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.’
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.
The emails 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 $100,000 in crypto.
He was paid $70,000 before he was caught.
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.
The leaked secrets contained ‘militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors,’ according to a federal court affidavit.
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
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.
If convicted, the couple face life in prison.
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.
Since 2012, Toebbe has worked for the Navy and he had high-level clearances in nuclear engineering.
Toebbe 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.
According to court documents, he has worked on naval nuclear propulsion since 2012, including on technology devised to reduce the noise and vibration of submarines, factors that can give away their location.
He also 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.
The complaint alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.
Diana Toebbe is a humanities teacher at the Key School, a private school in Annapolis.
She has been suspended indefinitely.
The FBI also stated that Toebbe would only have had access to the documents that he allegedly shared with the undercover FBI agent while working at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, a government research facility in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.
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).