A teacher accused of selling nuclear submarine secrets with her Navy engineer husband only wanted to flee the country because she hated Donald Trump, a court has been told.
Lawyers for Diana Toebbe, 45, claim she only wanted to exit the US because of her disdain for the former president, and not because she was worried about getting caught for allegedly trying to sell the classified information.
They made the claim in court papers filed Wednesday, complete with an exchange of messages said to have taken place between Toebbe and her husband Jonathan in March 2019.
Those texts also allegedly saw Diana Toebbe discuss fleeing to France. The country they tried to sell the secrets to has never been mentioned, and is said to be a US ally, although officials told NBC News that France was not the country targeted.
Diana begins: ‘We need to get out.’ Jonathan appears bored with her statement, answering: ‘*sigh* where? To do what?’
His wife then says: ‘To anywhere. To do something else. To teach in international schools. To take Macron up on his offer to harbor scientific refugees.’
In an apparent attempt to calm Diana, Jonathan says: ‘Biden/Warren will curb stomp Trump/Pence.’
But Diana was undeterred, and replied: ‘WE NEED TO GET OUT. Hilary (sic) was going to curb stomp trump. I’m done.’
Diana and Jonathan Toebbes are seen in their mugshots, following their arrest in Virginia in October. A judge is currently considering her bail application
Jonathan touted then then-unpublished Mueller Report into alleged collusion between Team Trump and Russia, which ended up posing no threat to Trump’s presidency.
He wrote: ‘The Mueller report is coming real soon.’
But Diana remained angry, answering: ‘It’s been too long. Nothing has changed. He’s still in power.’
Jonathan replied: ‘Nothing in government moves that fast — believe me, I speak from personal experience.’
Diana then said: ‘(Trump crony) Manafort got a slap on the wrist. It’s a signal that the entire system is rigged.’
The chat then turned to escaping, with Jonathan saying: ‘We’ve got passports, and some savings. In a real pinch we can flee quickly.’
And Diana answered: ‘Right. Let’s go sooner than later.’
The pair 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.
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
Diana Toebbe, a teacher, was suspended from her school following her arrest
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.
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.’
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
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.
Diana’s social media accounts – which often featured pictures of her dogs, her family and selfies, a far cry from her alleged life as a spy – revealed that she was unhappy with the government and her country.
Other posts reveal show that she was a staunch liberal who supported ‘The Resistance,’ once retweeting that ‘America is Temporarily Out of Order’ while Trump was president.
She supported liberal ideologies, including the Black Lives Matter movement. Her profile picture reads ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and a post last year celebrating the social media protest against racism called ‘#blackouttuesday.’
One post she shared in 2019 is a photo from an unidentified Women’s March overlaid with the quote, ‘Stay angry, little Meg. You will need all your anger now,’ from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
The social media posts on Diana Toebbe’s Facebook account include one saying ‘Women Can Stop Trump’
One retweet from the her account in 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, shows a photo saying, ‘To the rest of the world, due to an insufficient amount of moral courage, America is temporarily out of order. We hope to restore service as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we in the resistance movement join hands with those around the world who realize we are one people. May the forces of good be with us. #TheResistance.’
The accounts her Twitter profile follows are mostly ‘resistance’ accounts in protest of Trump, including the ‘Rogue NASA’ account described as ‘the unofficial “Resistance” team of NASA’ on its bio description.
In 2016, she retweeted a post from liberal activist group MoveOn about former First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech criticism of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump for his treatment of women.
One retweet in 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, shows a picture caption:, ‘To the rest of the world, due to an insufficient amount of moral courage, America is temporarily out of order. We hope to restore service as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we in the resistance movement join hands with those around the world who realize we are one people. May the forces of good be with us. #TheResistance.’
Around the same time, she retweeted a post from self-proclaimed ‘activist against Islamophobia’ CJ Werleman which included a video of an Iranian-American discussing Trump’s travel ban with the caption, ‘Watch this video and then try to describe immigrants in dehumanizing terms such as “waves” or “floods.” ‘
She followed up with another tweet from an account called ALT DOJ, which describes itself as the ‘Resistance’ Department of Justice, that included a photo of people protesting the travel ban outside then-Senator Orrin Hatch’s office at the Capitol.
It’s caption read: ‘Scene in front of Hatch’s office right now. capitol police threatening arrests for seated protesters! #RESIST #TheResistance #MuslimBan’
One Facebook post on Diana’s account said ‘Women Can Stop Trump;’ while other profile pictures feature failed 2016 presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s campaign symbol; a photo of the transgender flag; and various profile photos supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Diana also retweeted an anti-trump tweet from TED Talk follower and cosmologist Katie Mack, saying the Trump administration suppressed LGBT right
One post she shared in 2019 is a photo from an unidentified Women’s March with the above quote about ‘staying angry’
Meanwhile, her husband appears to be a wannabe medieval swashbuckler who took sword-fighting classes and owned his own swords.
About two months after Jonathan allegedly sent a package of secret Navy information to a foreign contact, he boasted about buying a new sword to members of the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historic Swordsmanship on Facebook.
‘[That feeling when] a box from Amazon and Purpleheart Armoury arrive on the same day,’ Toebbe wrote on the society’s Facebook page, while also posting a photo of a new sleek sword, medieval-style armor and a book titled ‘The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship.’
‘New sword day is always a good day,’ he added in 2020.
The group’s founder, Larry Tom, told the New York Post that he knew Jonathan in the ‘context’ of historic swordplay.
Jonathan also attended classes at the group’s nearby center.
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).
Emails exchanged between Jonathan Toebbe and FBI agent posing as representative of unidentified country
On December 26, 2020, the FBI initiated the first of several emails to ‘ALICE’ on ProtonMail. The FBI utilized a ProtonMail account utilizing the pseudo name ‘BOB.’ The email stated, ‘We received your letter. We want to work with you. It has been many months, so we need to know if you are still out there. Please respond to this message, then we will provide instructions on how to proceed.’
On February 10, 2021, ‘ALICE’ responded and stated, ‘Thank you for contacting me. I am still here. The covid disease has made it more difficult to find chances to check this email. Let us discuss how to proceed.’
On February 24, 2021, an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity (‘the UC’) responded and stated, ‘We understand the delay and hope you are well. Our experts reviewed the information you provided. We would like to sample your [US. Navy Information — Specific Sections].’ We have a trusted friend in your country who has a gift for you to compensate for your efforts…
On March 5, 2021, ‘ALICE’ replied with the following. ‘ I am uncomfortable with this arrangement. Face to face meetings are very risky for me, as I am sure you understand. I propose exchanging gifts electronically, for mutual safety. I can upload documents to a secure cloud storage account, encrypted with the key I have provided you. You can send me a suitable gift in Monero cryptocurrency to an address I will provide. 100,000 usd should be enough to prove to me that you are not an unwelcome third party looking to make trouble for me. When I have confirmed receipt of your gift, I will provide you with the download link. We are both protected. I understand this is a large request. However, please remember I am risking my life for your benefit and I have taken the first step. Please help me trust you fully.’
On March 18, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 wrote, ‘We understand a face to face meeting would be uncomfortable. We suggest a neutral drop location. When you visit the location alone, you retrieve a g~fi and leave behind the sample we request. We hope to have a very long friendship that benefits mutually.’
On March 22, 2021, ‘ALICE’ replied. ‘I understand your proposal to start a dead drop. I am concerned that using a dead drop location your friend prepares makes me very vulnerable. If other interested parties are observing the location, I will be unable to detect them. I am not a professional, and do not have a team supporting me. I am also concerned that a physical gift would be very difficult to explain if I am questioned. For now, I must consider the possibility that you are not the person I hope you are. It would be very easy for the serial numbers of bills to be recorded. Tracking devices and other nasty surprises must be considered as well. I propose to mod~ your plan in the following ways:
1. I will place the sample you requested on a memory card and place it in a drop location of my choosing… . I am not a professional and I am sure that publicly available information on this subject is incomplete.
2. The samples will be encrypted using GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly generated passphrase.
3. I will tell you the location and how to find the card. I will also give you a Monero address. This form of gift protects both of us very well. I am very aware of the risks of blockchain analysis of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies, and believe Monero gives both of us excellent deniability.
4. Once I confirm receipt of my gift, I will give you the passphrase.
Your friend and I will never go to the same drop location twice. I will give you a new Monero address each time. The decryption key will be different each time. No patterns for third parties to observe. The only electronic footprints will be Proton to Proton, so there is less risk of encrypted traffic being collected for future analysis by third parties. That part is not perfect. Perhaps as our friendship develops we will change addresses periodically?’
On April 1, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 responded to ‘ALICE’ and stated, ‘We understand your concern and appreciate the thoughtful plan… as a sign of good faith and trust we wish to pay you the equivalent of 10,000 USD immediately on Monero to address you provided.
Drop locations are safest and allow us to make exchanges without coming in contact and of course leave no electronic footprint… Your proposed method of memory card with encryption/passphrases is acceptable. For the small sample we requested you will receive another 20,000 USD. Once you confirm Monero address we will activate payment. Our next step will be information on the drop location we have selected. This method will build trust between usfor a larger transaction in future. Our experts are interested in the information you have but we insist on maintaining our discretion and security as a priority.’
On April 9, 2021, ‘ALICE’ wrote, ‘I am sorry to be so stubborn and untrusting, but I can not agree to go to a location of your choosing. I must consider the possibility that l 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 physically delivering the package, then it must be a place of my choosing.
I ask you to consider the viability of an electronic dead drop. I can establish an encrypted online storage account without providing any identifying information and without provoking any suspicion…Another possibility occurs to me: is there some physical signal you can make that proves your identity to me? I could plan to visit Washington D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend. I would just be another tourist in the crowd. Perhaps you could fly a signal flag on your roof? Something easily observable from the street, but nothing to arouse an adversary’s suspicion?… ‘.
On April 23, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 emailed the following: ‘You do not need to apologize. We appreciate you being careful. That is much better than someone reckless. Your thoughtful plans indicate you are not amateur. This relationship requires mutual comfort. There is risk on both sides and we understand your need for safety assurance of who you are communicating with. As you suggest we can accommodate a signal in Washington D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend. We will set a signal from our main building observable from the street. It will bring you comfort with signals on display from the area inside our property that we control and not a [sic] adversary. If you agree please acknowledge. We will then provide more instruction about the signal. We hope this plan will continue to build the necessary trust and comfort of our identity.’
On May 5, 2021 ‘ALICE’ wrote, ‘I will make plans to be in the capitol [sic] over the Memorial Day weekend. It would be best to leave the signal visible for the entire holiday weekend so I can plan to pass by in the natural course of my tourist day. I may be on foot or passing by in a bus or car or bicycle, so please plan for something easy to spot.
On May 17, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 responded and said, in part, ‘We are happy to set a signal to bring you comfort and build necessary trust between us. The signal will be inside our main building from Saturday morning until Sunday evening Memorial Day weekend.’
During the weekend of May 29-30, 2021, the FBI conducted an operation in the Washington, D.C. area that involved placing a signal at a location associated with COUNTRY1 in an attempted effort to gain bona fides with ‘ALICE.’
On May 31, 2021, the FBI received confirmation via the ProtonMail from ‘ALICE’ that the signal was received. ‘ALICE’ also wrote that, ‘Now Jam comfortably telling you your assumption that Pittsburgh would be a convenient location for me is incorrect.. for now I can tell you I am located near Baltimore, Maryland. Please let me know when you are ready to proceed with our first exchange. Once you have dropped location details for me, I will give you the Monero address and prepare the sample you have requested.’ ‘ALICE’ went on to request clarity of the U.S. Navy information requested by the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1.
On June 4, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 requested the Monero address to provide ‘ALICE’ a payment of $10,000 USD as a sign of good faith and trust. The UC also informed ‘ALICE’ that new communication instructions would be provided at the exchange location.
On June 8, 2021, ‘ALICE’ wrote that, ‘For maximum security it is very important that you do not send Monero to the same address twice.’ ‘ALICE’ then provided the FBI with a payment address. ‘ALICE’ then went on to state, ‘I will place information you have requested~ encrypted, on a memory card along with the address for the second payment you offered in a plain text file. After I confirm the second payment I will provide you with the decryption passphrase using the new communication method. I am also excited to continue our relationship…’
On June 10, 2021, the FBI paid ‘ALICE’ approximately $10,000 USD in Monero cryptocurrency.
On June 17, 2021, ‘ALICE’ thanked the FBI for the first payment and stated that he/she was ‘eagerly waiting for your instructions.’
On June 18, 2021, the UC posing as a representative of COUNTRY1 emailed ‘ALICE’ to provide detailed instructions on servicing a dead drop location in Jefferson County, West Virginia to occur on June 26, 2021.
The UC discussed instructions regarding the next payment to ‘ALICE’ as well as additional assurance that ‘ALICE’ would be paid $20,000 upon the sample verification and authenticity of the information provided at the drop location.
On June 23, 2021, ‘ALICE’ sent the FBI a confirmation email stating, ‘I understand your instructions and am ready to move forward.’
On June 26, 2021, at approximately 10.41 a.m., the FBI observed Jonathan Toebbe physically service a dead drop location in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Records show that Jonathan Toebbe is a government employee working as a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy and holds an active Top Secret Security Clearance through the United States Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the United States Department of Energy.