Navy sailor pleads guilty to espionage for submarine photos

Navy sailor pleads guilty to espionage for submarine photos
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A Navy sailor on Friday pleaded guilty to illegally photographing classified areas of a nuclear submarine.

The 29-year-old petty officer first class, Kristian Saucier, admitted to taking cellphone photos of instruments and equipment within the submarine on three separate occasions in 2009, the Justice Department announced.

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The photos documented technical aspects of the USS Alexandria’s propulsion systems, including its maneuvering compartment, the reactor compartment and the auxiliary steam plant panel. The sub, on which Saucier severed as a machinist’s mate, is a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine based in Groton, Conn.  

Three years later, his cellphone was discovered in a dumpster, setting off an investigation.

After being interviewed by federal officials, Saucier destroyed a laptop computer, camera and memory card in an apparent effort to hide evidence of having taken the photos. Pieces of the laptop were later found in the woods on land owned by a member of his family.

Saucier was arrested last May.

On Friday, he pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information. The charge falls under the Espionage Act, according to Politico, which first reported the plea.

Sentencing is scheduled for August. Saucier facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is likely to be compared to the ongoing FBI investigation connected to former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton responds to Trump tweets telling Dem lawmakers to 'go back' to their countries The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president MORE’s use of a private email server throughout her time in office, and the possibility that classified information was mishandled.

Critics of the Obama administration have claimed that it has vigorously pursued lower-level officials and government leakers, such as Edward Snowden, while giving a minor slap on the wrists to prominent officials such as Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus. The investigation connected to Clinton is ongoing but is expected to be resolved in coming weeks.