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The USS Indiana, a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, departs Port Canaveral in Florida in 2018. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Navy nuclear engineer and his spouse were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday after making several attempts to pass along secrets about U.S. nuclear submarines to a foreign country, the Department of Justice announced on Sunday.

Why it matters: Although their plans failed, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe violated the Atomic Energy Act by attempting to pass along restricted data to another country, per the criminal complaint.

The big picture: “The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the press release.

  • Though his job, Jonathan Toebbe had a high-level security clearance that gave him access to detailed information concerning the U.S. nuclear submarines' design and performance characteristics, per the press release.
  • In April 2020, Toebbe sent a package to an unnamed country with a sample of the restricted data and instructions for how to establish contact.
  • Toebbe then began a correspondence with someone he believed to be a representative of the foreign country, but in fact was an undercover FBI agent.
  • Between June 2021 and Oct. 9, Toebbe orchestrated several so-called "dead drops" of the restricted data about submarine nuclear reactors in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency.
  • His wife, Diana, accompanied him on these dead drops and acted as a lookout, per the criminal complaint.

What to watch: Both Toebbes are set to make their first court appearances this Tuesday.

Go deeper

Nov 30, 2021 - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
40 mins ago - Health

The end of the Omicron wave is in sight

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The Omicron wave is likely beginning to recede in the U.S., experts say.

Why it matters: Omicron is still wreaking havoc in parts of the country, but infectious disease experts are optimistic that relief is around the corner.

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haʻapai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.