Lawyer blasts Navy for 'widespread' cell phone security breaches on subs
ST. MARYS (Tribune News Service) — A lawyer who represented one of six sailors convicted of recording female officers undressing aboard the USS Wyoming is not surprised at the newest security breach on a nuclear-powered submarine.
Petty Officer 1st Class Kristian Saucier, a machinist's mate, has been accused of using his cellphone to take photos of sensitive electronic equipment on the fast-attack submarine USS Alexandria, according to the Navy Times. Images were discovered on a discarded cellphone found in a town dump in Connecticut.
Saucier was arrested May 28 after he was accused of photographing the submarine's control panels, reactor compartment and a monitor showing the boat's exact location. The images were detailed enough for an engineer to determine design characteristics of the boat, according to the FBI, which is investigating the case.
A federal grand jury indicted Saucier in July. He faces 20 years in prison, if convicted.
Lawyer Jim Stein, who represented Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles P. Greaves during his court-martial in May, said the Navy has failed to enforce its own policy banning personal electronic devices aboard nuclear-powered submarines.
"This is where it became known the Navy's PED policy had been violated," he said of the violations by Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay sailors. "I was just a military defense lawyer and found a widespread security breach."
Six of seven sailors on the Wyoming charged in the case were convicted, receiving varying sentences based on their roles in recording and distributing the videos.
Greaves received the harshest sentence that included two years in prison, loss of rank and a dishonorable discharge.
Stein said he told Navy investigators early on about the widespread use of cellphones and other electronic devices capable of recording images aboard the Wyoming.
He said Navy officials showed little interest in the information because he believes it could have meant more sailors, including officers, could have been reprimanded for lax enforcement of the rule banning the use of electronic devices with the ability to record.
"A review of the PED policy certainly didn't make it discretionary, but the Navy allowed individual commanders to use it as being discretionary," Stein said. "In defense of our client, we discovered the abuse was widespread, that there was no enforcement of the PED policy, that it had been going on for years."
Stein said he cannot understand how any branch of the military would allow anyone in a secure area with a cellphone capable of taking images. He believes other sailors may have also violated the policy and gotten away with it.
"There is no way to determine how many times security has been breached," he said. "Why was it not stopped immediately? The first line of our nation's defense is a ballistic missile submarine."
Lax enforcement of the ban led to the problems that caused his client to lose his Navy career, Stein said. National security regulations should also apply to those who serve in the military.
"I have to take off my shoes and belt to board an airplane, but sailors can take a camera into a secure area in a nuclear submarine," he said. "I can see it being an open door for espionage. The Navy had a major security breach and allowed it to happen."
Stein said the incidents aboard both submarines are serious breaches of security, regardless of the circumstances.
"Of course there was concern about viewing ladies in the shower and no one can argue that was not wrong," he said. "But the bigger breach was the allowing of recording devices on a top secret vessel. That trumps the shower issue."
Navy officials said a report will be released regarding the Wyoming incidents once investigators determine there is no new evidence to be discovered. A judge advocate general will issue a report that will analyze the case.
The report will look at the events leading up to the investigation, including what took place, Navy policy and instructions by command staff.
Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 464-7655.