Following the sell-out of data related to nuclear-powered warship design to an undercover FBI agent, a nuclear engineer together with his wife were imprisoned, being charged with espionage accusations that indicate the Atomic Energy Act’s violation.

Details on the Data Exchange

On the 1st of April 2020, a foreign government received a package with the following documents: “U.S. Navy documents, a letter containing instructions, and an S.D. card containing specific instructions on how COUNTRY 1 should respond using an encrypted communication platform, and additional documents.”, state the official documents.

The letter showed that Jonatan Toebe wanted to sell confidential documents like:

  • Printouts
  • Digital media files with technical info
  • Performance reports
  • Operations manuals

The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation.


The FBI representative who was in the unmentioned country informed the FBI about this, the same court documents reveal. Following this, the FBI agent impersonating an allegedly COUNTRY 1 representative got in touch with Jonathan Toebbe in December 2020 by using an encrypted ProtonMail. The agent asked Toebbe to send extra U.S. Navy data to a dead drop location in the email exchanges that followed between April and June 2021.

After asking for a Monero crypto payment and the location to be Jefferson County, West Virginia for the data delivery, the defendant accepted the deal. The dead drop location was chosen by him, out of a lack of complete trust in the agent.

As the e-mail exchange shows, this is what the nuclear engineer said to the agent:

The samples will be encrypted using GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly generated passphrase,” Toebbe told the undercover agent via encrypted email. I will tell you the location and how to find the card. I will also give you a Monero address. I am very aware of the risks of blockchain analysis of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies and believe Monero gives both us excellent deniability. (..) I must consider the possibility that I 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 my physically delivering the package, then it must be a place of my choosing.


Then, on the 26th of June, the nuclear engineer went to the established dead drop location together with his wife. He also used half of a peanut butter sandwich to hide an S.D. card and place it there.

A press release from the Department of Justice also says

On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an S.D. card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package. After making a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card.


The moment of the arrest happened on the 9th of October when the defendant delivered at a West Virginia second location another S.D. card. The nuclear engineer together with his wife was arrested by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the FBI.

Jonathan Toebbes worked as a nuclear engineer in the Navy’s Department’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. He had access to sensitive data because he owned a national security clearance.

End-to-end Encryption (E2EE). What Is It and How It Helps

Is Signal Secure? An Analysis of its History, Encryption Protocol, and Privacy Policy

The most Popular Free Encryption Software Tools to Protect Your Data

All You Need to Know About Nuclear Exploit Kit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *