Keep those nuclear secrets secret. No problem, I'll hoard them in my attic

Weldon Marshall recently pled guilty to stealing U.S government secrets associated with the U.S. nuclear weapons systems and keeping them in his Texas home.

Weldon Marshall pleads guilty to stealing US nuclear secrets
U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Jarad A. Denton

Fortunate is the individual who volunteers to serve in the U.S. Navy and finds themselves assigned to work with and protect one of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, the United States’ nuclear command and control communication secrets.

What you don't want to do, however, is take that information and store it in your attic.

That’s apparently what Weldon Marshall did, according to court documents associated with the case of the U.S. vs. Marshall.

Marshall, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1999, was a member of the highly trusted “Take Charge And Move Out” (TACAMO) team. TACAMO refers to the methods and means for the U.S. military to maintain survivable communications to be used in nuclear warfare — the necessary communications between the decision-makers and the various nuclear weapons delivery systems within the U.S. military.

Sometime prior to his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 2004, Marshall, a trusted insider, copied a number of highly sensitive classified documents onto a CD that he labeled, “My Secret TACAMO Stuff). He then took this CD with him upon his discharge and stored the CD at the house he shared with his now-ex-wife in Liverpool, Texas — perhaps in the attic, according to the Department of Justice.

Marshall’s home in Liverpool, a tiny Texas town of fewer than 500 persons that is located about 40 miles west of Galveston, Texas, would hold these TACAMO secrets through at least January 2017.

Stealing government secrets and other items

While the CD sat in Marshall’s house, Marshall went on to find employment at a number of government contractors, providing IT services to the U.S. Department of Defense on military bases in Afghanistan. He continued enjoy the trust of the U.S. government and maintained his Top Secret security clearance.

During that time, he was accused of stealing U.S. government property exceeding $1,000 in value — five Cisco switches.

It was then discovered that Marshall had stolen something more valuable than the five switches — he had been hoarding secret classified information associated with ground operations in Afghanistan. He had shipped from Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan to his home in Liverpool, Texas, seven hard drives — one 2TB in size and six 1TB in size — containing secret government information. He also shipped those five Cisco switches in the same manner as the hard drives: in boxes, trunks, and footlockers.

Marshall pleads guilty

Marshall, who was arrested in January 2017 for the theft of those five Cisco switches, signed a plea of guilty on March 5, 2018, in which he acknowledged not only the theft of the switches, but also that he took classified material during his time in the Navy and subsequently from the Department of Defense during his time in Afghanistan.

Marshall is due to be sentenced in May 2018, at which time he could face up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Trusted insider lessons continued to be relearned

The fact that this trusted insider could copy and abscond with these secrets is troubling, and no doubt it has caused internal processes for the handling of classified information both within the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense to be reviewed.

It would appear Marshall’s theft of classified information falls within the same bailiwick as the lessons learned as a result of the 2010 theft of classified information by Chelsea Manning

The only bright spot in the whole debacle? The arrest of Marshall for the theft of the five switches led to the discovery of Marshall’s hoard of classified information. And the hoard of secret information was not shared or discovered by an adversary of the United States, but rather only by the investigators of the Army’s 902d Military Intelligence Group and the FBI.

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