(DOJ) Kristian Saucier, 29, of Arlington, Vermont, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the District of Connecticut to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly of the District of Connecticut.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from September 2007 to March 2012, Saucier served as a machinist’s mate aboard the USS Alexandria, which is a U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine based at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.
On at least three separate dates in 2009, Saucier used the camera on his personal cellphone to take photographs of classified spaces, instruments and equipment of the USS Alexandria, documenting the major technical components of the submarine’s propulsion system.
On Jan. 19, 2009, Saucier took two photos, one of the auxiliary steam plant panel and the other of the reactor compartment viewed through a portal.
On March 22, 2009, Saucier took two photos that, when placed side by side, provided a panoramic array of the maneuvering compartment, the room from which the propulsion system of the boat is operated.
On July 15, 2009, Saucier took two photos documenting the reactor head configuration of the nuclear reactor and a view of the reactor compartment from within that compartment.
Saucier had a secret clearance and knew that the photos depicted classified material and that he was not authorized to take them. He retained these photos and failed to deliver them to any officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.
The investigation began in March 2012 when Saucier’s cellphone was found at a waste transfer station in Hampton, Connecticut. Saucier was interviewed by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in July 2012 and was confronted with the classified images from his phone.
Following that interview and in an effort to impede the federal investigation, Saucier returned to his home and immediately destroyed a laptop computer, a personal camera and the camera’s memory card. Pieces of a laptop computer were subsequently found in the woods on a property in Connecticut owned by a member of Saucier’s family.
Saucier was arrested on a criminal complaint on May 28, 2015, and was subsequently indicted.
Judge Underhill scheduled sentencing for Aug. 19, 2016, at which time Saucier faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is released on a $100,000 bond.
Saucier is currently enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Petty Officer First Class assigned to the Naval Support Activity Base, Saratoga Springs, New York. He is awaiting an administrative separation board proceeding.
This matter has been investigated by the FBI and NCIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vanessa Richards and Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss of the District of Connecticut and Trial Attorney Will Mackie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of New York.
On a March day in 2012, the supervisor at the town dump in Hampton, Connecticut, saw an LG cellphone resting atop a dumpster. Deciding he needed a new cell phone, he powered it on.
It was the beginning of an unlikely series of events that led to the Justice Department filing charges that could put Machinist Mate 1st Class Kristian Saucier behind bars for 20 years. Prosecutors say the 10-year Navy vet used his cell phone to snap pictures of the classified engineering spaces on the attack submarine Alexandria, raising questions about his intentions to share them.
It’s the latest case where sailors are accused of violating the submarine force’s ban on personal electronic devices; the ban was adopted to prevent sailors from photographing sensitive spaces. Late last year, 12 sailors were implicated in a ring that allegedly recorded female shipmates undressing with cellphones aboard the sub.
Saucier, a 28-year-old native of Arlington, Vermont, had been remodeling his home and making regular trips to the dump. When the supervisor opened the pictures on the phone, he discovered photos of Saucier, who he recognized, along with several detailed pictures of what looked like a Navy ship.
The supervisor showed the photos to his buddy, a retired Navy chief, who took them to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who then looped in the FBI, and it was off to the races.
The photos that raised red flags at NCIS and the FBI included images of various control panels, a panoramic view of the reactor compartment and a panel that showed the condition and exact location of the submarine at the time the photo was taken.
The FBI alleged that “an engineer could determine significant design characteristics of a U.S. nuclear submarine” from the images on Saucier’s phone.
Saucier pleaded “not guilty” to charges he took and retained pictures of classified spaces and knowingly destroyed evidence to disrupt an ongoing investigation. Saucier’s attorney said his client denies any wrongdoing and is “vehemently denying the charge of espionage.” . . . (read more)
I knew this was going happen. If Clinton gets off, anyone who knowingly or unknowly mishandles classified information is going to use Clinton as the reason their case should be dismissed. They already use the Petraeus case.
A Navy sailor entered a guilty plea Friday in a classified information mishandling case that critics charge illustrates a double standard between the treatment of low-ranking government employees and top officials like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus. . . .
. . . The sailor now faces a maximum possible sentence of up to ten years in prison, but faced up to 30 years if found guilty on both charges. Federal guidelines discussed in court Friday appear to call for a sentence of about five to six-and-a-half years, although the defense has signaled it will seek a lighter sentence.
Saucier’s friends, conservative commentators and others say the stiff charges leveled against Saucier were out of whack with more lenient treatment given to senior officials who face allegations of mishandling classified information, like Clinton.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” said Gene Pitcher, a retired Navy sailor who served with Saucier aboard the Alexandria. “In reality, what she did is so much worse than what Kris did. … I think it’s just a blatant double standard.”
Clinton has not been charged with any crime, but the FBI has been investigating how information that intelligence agencies consider classified wound up on the private server that hosted her only email account during the four years she served as secretary of state. Some news reports have said charges are unlikely.
“Felony charges appear to be reserved for people of the lowest ranks. Everyone else who does it either doesn’t get charged or gets charged with a misdemeanor,” said Edward MacMahon, a Virginia defense attorney not involved in the Saucier case. . . .
. . . “The DOJ is willing to prosecute a former sailor to the full extent of the law for violating the law on classified material, in a situation where there was no purposeful unsecured transmission of classified material,” conservative blogger Ed Morrissey wrote last year. “Will they pursue Hillary Clinton and her team, at the other end of the power spectrum from the rank-and-file, for deliberate unsecured transmission of improperly marked classified nat-sec intelligence? Will they pursue the same kind of obstruction of justice charges for Hillary’s wiping of her server as they are for Saucier’s destruction of his laptop?” . . .(read the rest)