Navy IT chief charged with sharing classified info with a Russian national

A Virginia-based U.S. Navy chief is facing court-martial on charges that he sent classified and “national defense” information to a Russian national, among other alleged offenses.

Chief Information Systems Technician Charles T. Briggs has been held in pre-trial confinement since August 2019, according to his charge sheet.

Assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Briggs is accused of obtaining an email containing classified information from a government computer in January 2019 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and then sending it to a Russian national “with reason to believe the information could be used to injure the United States or benefit a foreign nation,” the charge sheet states.

Briggs was stationed at Offutt with U.S. Strategic Command from April 2018 to July 2019, according to his service record.

Also known as STRATCOM, the combatant command oversees the U.S. military’s nuclear arsenal.

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 ballistic missiles participate in a parade in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2019. The head of U.S. Strategic Command says he is keeping a close eye on all regions of the world. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Several of the charges against Briggs involve a Russian national whose name is redacted on the charge sheet copy provided to Navy Times, so it remains unclear how many Russian nationals the Navy chief was allegedly interacting with.

He is also charged with relaying U.S. national defense information to a Russian national from October 2018 to January 2019, “information he had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation,” according to the charge sheet.

Prosecutors also allege Briggs obstructed justice when he told a Russian national “of the ongoing investigation into their relationship” in January and February of 2019, according to his charge sheet.

Briggs is also charged with making a false official statement in April 2018 after he allegedly wrote “no” on a security clearance questionnaire in response to a question about whether he had maintained a “close and continuing relationship” with anyone that was not a U.S. citizen, according to his charge sheet.

The chief faces similar false official statement specifications for allegedly answering “no” on a STRATCOM form when asked if he had met a foreign national who requested future contact in September 2018.

Briggs is also accused of lying on a leave request form in November 2018, when he wrote that he would be staying in Nebraska for an upcoming 11-day leave period.

Efforts to build a new headquarters for U.S. Strategic Command has been bedeviled by cost overruns, fire, mold and other missteps that have delayed the project for years, according to a Defense Department report. (Defense Department)

He faces two specifications for violation of a general regulation after he allegedly failed to report a month-long trip to Serbia in November and December 2018, according to the charge sheet.

Prosecutors further alleged that Briggs failed to report foreign connections to Russian and Italian nationals to his security manager from May 2017 to January 2019.

In addition, the chief is charged with possessing a digital image of child sexual abuse in July 2018, and for attempting to view such material from June 2018 to December 2018, according to his charge sheet.

Navy officials said Briggs was being represented by civilian attorney Frank Spinner, who did not return requests for comment.

Briggs was arraigned last month and his trial is scheduled for November, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokesman William Vergakis said.

A native of Wisconsin, Briggs came aboard Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in July 2019, according to his service record.

Before his 15-month stint at STRATCOM, Briggs was stationed with the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Sicily, Italy, from 2014 to 2018.

He enlisted in 1998 and made chief in 2013.

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