Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grand jury charges sailor with taking illegal photos of classified systems on U.S. submarine

Edmund Mahony/Hartford Courant
24 July 2015
The FBI says a sailor took illegal photographs of classified systems on the U.S. Navy's Groton-based, nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Alexandria and later tried to destroy the evidence when he learned that the Navy and FBI were investigating.
The Navy was alerted to the security breach when the town dump foreman in Hampton found a cellular telephone in a Dumpster and decided to keep it to replace his own. When he noticed that the phone contained photographs, he showed them to a retired Navy chief, who called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said Friday that a federal grand jury has charged Kristian Saucier, 28, of Arlington, Vt., with unlawfully retaining photos taken inside restricted areas of a nuclear attack submarine, and obstructing an investigation.
Federal authorities did not respond to questions about the case, including what, if anything, investigators think Saucier intended to do with the photographs. A government affidavit filed in court said Saucier admitted that the photographs were found on his telephone, but denied taking them.
"We vehemently deny that Mr. Saucier ever intentionally did anything to harm the U.S. or aid a foreign national," said his attorney, Derrick Hogan, of Albany, N.Y. "The government is trying to levy an espionage charge against him. The government is trying to make it a lot bigger than it is."
Saucier served as a machinist's mate aboard the Alexandria from September 2007 to March 2012.
The Alexandria is a Los Angeles, or 688-class, attack boat designed to hunt and destroy enemy submarines. The attack submarines, which also have been used in top-secret intelligence missions, date to the 1970s but remain an important element of the U.S. fleet.
About half the class was built in Groton by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. The submarines' design and performance characteristics remain classified.
Naval and FBI investigators said in court filings that Saucier's telephone contained photographs of the ship's reactor, reactor compartment and maneuvering compartment, where the nuclear power, steam and electrical systems of the submarine are operated and monitored through control panels.
The investigators said that photographs of the control panels were of such clarity that gauges could easily be read, revealing the Alexandria's position at the time of the photograph, as well as its maximum speed, which is classified. An engineer reading the photos could "determine significant design characteristics of a U.S. nuclear submarine, including its reactor plant," the investigators said.
After FBI and Naval investigators first questioned Saucier, federal prosecutors said he used a hammer to destroy a laptop computer and a camera, which also allegedly contained photographs. Saucier's grandfather told investigators that he later found Saucier's laptop computer on his farm in Hampton.
Saucier told his grandfather that, when the computer stopped working, he used it for target practice, according to a law enforcement affidavit.
Following his service on the Alexandria, Saucier was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, N.Y., as an instructor candidate. He is now a First Class Petty Officer assigned to the Naval Support Activity Base in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

He is free on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday in Hartford. If convicted, he faces maximum penalties of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 for unauthorized retention of defense information and 20 years and a $250,000 fine for obstruction of justice.

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