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MD nuclear scientist, wife, face life in prison after pleading guilty in nuclear secrets case

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A Maryland couple has pleaded guilty for the second time in federal court on Tuesday for attempting to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign power. Jonathan Toebbe, 42, a nuclear scientist and his wife, Diana, a former humanities teacher at a private school, were first arrested and charged ini October.

Their first plea deal was rejected by a judge who said their sentences were too lenient. Tuesday, the Maryland couple pleaded guilty to one felony count each of conspiracy to communicate restricted data.

“Last month, U.S. District Judge Gina Groh rejected their first plea, saying the punishment did not fit the crime. Jonathan’s attorneys had called for a sentencing range between 12 years and 17.5 years, while his wife would get three years” reports the Washington Examiner.

The new plea agreement, brought before another judge, could result in the couple facing a maximum of life in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The Washington Examiner writes of the case:

Jonathan, who worked for the U.S. Navy, used his top-level security clearance to smuggle out design secrets of Virginia-class submarines to someone he thought was working for an undisclosed foreign entity but who was in reality an undercover FBI agent.

Jonathan communicated with the agent using an encrypted email service and did document drops in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He would download the classified material he smuggled out onto SD cards, often hiding them in peanut butter sandwiches while his wife was on the lookout.

The couple was first arrested after one of these drops in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Shockingly, the Justice Department said Jonathan’s top-secret security clearance was renewed just days before he mailed the first package. He had worked for the “Nuclear Reactors” program since 2012.

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COVID-19

Adviser to Fauci bragged about helping him evade FOIA, ‘he is too smart’ to get caught

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The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic published evidence ahead of a hearing that explains the senior scientific adviser to then-National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci actually bragged about helping Fauci evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The adviser, David Morens, admitted in his own communications to intentionally evading FOIA by using a Fauci’s private Gmail address or just handing him documents in person, according to the newly disclosed emails.

The 35-page report on Morens includes previously unreleased emails including:

An April 21, 2021 email shows Morens contacted EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, whom Morens has described as his “best friend” and a U.S. taxpayer conduit for the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as well as Boston University and New England Biolabs researchers.

The subject line references “CoV research in China, GoF, etc.,” referring to EcoHealth-facilitated coronavirus research at WIV that could make a virus more transmissible or dangerous. The National Institutes of Health recently admitted it funded gain-of-function research under that definition but not a stricter regulatory definition.

“PS, i forgot to say there is no worry about FOIAs,” Morens wrote. “I can either send stuff to Tony on his private gmail, or hand it to him at work or at his house. He is too smart to let colleagues send him stuff that could cause trouble.”

A May 13, 2021 email to the same recipients referred to “our ‘secret’ back channel” by which Morens connected Fauci to a journalist named “Arthur,” apparently to discuss the feds’ preferred narrative that SARS-CoV-2 emerged naturally rather than via lab leak. The email cited an article on the message board Virological.

Gerald Keusch, associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory Institute at BU, emailed Daszak Oct. 25, 2021 to relay a phone conversation with “David,” who is “concerned about the privacy of text” and email sent and received on his “government phone” because they “could be FOIA’able.”

“Tony has told him not to be in touch with you and EHA for the time being,” Keusch wrote. Morens relayed that Daszak should get his story straight on EcoHealth’s claim that NIH locked it out of the system when it tried to file its year-five progress report that disclosed an arguable gain-of-function experiment.

Earlier in the day, Morens told Daszak “i will be meeting with Tony about this later on.” The subject line of the thread was “Draft response to Michael Lauer,” deputy director for extramural research at NIH.

Morens also told Daszak that Fauci and then-NIH Director Francis Collins are “trying to protect you, which also protects their own reputations,” apparently meaning against allegations that U.S. tax dollars passed through EcoHealth funded research that may have led to SARS-CoV-2’s emergence.

The subcommittee said it found emails that revealed “likely illegal” practices, including an April 2020 email in which Morens shared a “new NIAID implementation plan” with Daszak and an August 2020 email in which Daszak mentioned a “kick-back” to Morens after NIH awarded $7.5 million to EcoHealth.

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