Portsmouth Sailor Goes To Trial On Charges Of Giving Classified Information To Foreign National
What was in the email, classified 'secret', that prosecutors say Charles Timothy Briggs took from a government computer and sent to a Russian national?
Who was the Russian, and the Italian national, that they accuse Briggs of having secret connections with?
These are some of the questions surrounding a Chief Petty Officer who goes to trial on Tuesday, facing a maximum of 64 years in prison. Prosecutors have put together a case with six charges, describing a series of criminal acts going back to the spring of 2018. But the story of what exactly happened is not complete, and it's important to note that neither Briggs nor his attorney have publicly given their side of the case.
Here's what U.S. Navy officials say:
Charles Briggs enlisted in 1998 and began a 20-year career in the Navy at posts all over the country and overseas. He specialized in information technology, telecommunications and related fields. He served in Afghanistan, at Pearl Harbor and aboard the USS Shiloh, a guided missile cruiser.
From 2014 to 2018, he served at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Sicily. This was the last post before he went to Offutt, where prosecutors say his first criminal activity occurred.
Briggs arrived at Offutt Air Force Base from Sicily sometime after March 23, 2018. Just a month later, on April 20, prosecutors say he lied on a pre-screening questionnaire, which asked him whether he "maintained a close and continuing relationship with anyone that is not a U.S. citizen..."
Navy attorneys say Briggs began attempting to view child pornography that June. They allege that Briggs made several attempts and obtained digital material a few weeks later. The charging documents say his attempts continued throughout the year, and that it occurred at or near his post at the air base, which is an extremely sensitive facility tasked with helping to oversee American operations in the event of a nuclear war.
From October of that year to January, 2019, while still stationed at Offutt, prosecutors allege that Briggs sent information "relating to the national defense of the United States" to a Russian national. The charging documents do not say how often he did this, or how the information was supposedly transmitted. But as he was allegedly doing this, prosecutors assert that Charles Briggs was planning a secret trip.
Prosecutors say that Briggs made a leave request in early November, saying he would stay in Nebraska. In fact, Briggs supposedly went to Serbia and stayed almost to the end of the year.
When he came back the country in early January, 2019, that's when he allegedly took the email with classified material and transmitted it to a Russian, according to prosecutors.
It's on January 25 that the documents contain the first sign that security officials began to suspect Briggs may have been hiding something. Authorities say he failed to disclose connections to a Russian national and an Italian national. That same day, Briggs allegedly told a Russian national -- possibly the same person -- that there was an "ongoing investigation" into his relationship with that person.
Briggs continued to work at Offutt until July. He started his new post at the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Portsmouth at the end of that month. But he had been in Portsmouth a little over two weeks when authorities arrested him and put him in pre-trial confinement.
He had an Article 32 hearing, a preliminary hearing in a court martial in February, 2020. However, authorities held him in confinement for almost a year before The Virginian-Pilot first reported on the charges against Briggs in July.
WHRO sent multiple requests to Briggs' civilian defense attorney, who did not reply. The Navy said it was denying all media requests to speak with prosecutors or the accused.
Charles Briggs is currently the Navy Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake. On Tuesday at the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Court in Norfolk, he pleads his case.