Information Technology Chief Petty Officer Charles T. Briggs’s Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) November 26, 2019 charge sheet became public via Norfolk’s 13News on December 8, 2020, alleging that he knowingly accessed classified information and shared Secret information with a Russian foreign national. Briggs is charged with multiple violations of the UCMJ. If convicted, he faces up to 64 years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and reduction in rank to E-1. Briggs is currently assigned to the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA.
Unauthorized sharing of classified information
It is alleged that while posted to Offutt Air Force Base, NE in January 2019, he accessed a government computer system, extracted information classified Secret, and sent it via email to a Russian citizen “with reason to believe the information could be used to injure the United States or benefit a foreign nation.”
The charge sheet details how Briggs accessed the classified systems at Offutt on multiple and diverse occasions between October 2018 and January 2019, acquired classified information “pertaining to national defense,” and then shared this information.
Unreported Foreign National Romances
Briggs had a close and continuing relationship which he did not wish to disclose when he filled out a Special Compartmented Information (SCI) pre-screening questionnaire in April 2018. Again, in September 2018, he noted on a USSTRATCOM form that he had no such relationships. Then when he took leave November 26 through December 7, 2018, he noted on his Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS) leave request that he was taking leave and staying in Nebraska. He traveled to Serbia. This earned him a charge of failing to report his foreign travel.
In sum, Briggs was hiding his romantic relationship with a Russian national (May 2017 through January 2019). A deeper dive into his past revealed that this relationship wasn’t his first “secret romance” as it was revealed he failed to also report a relationship with an Italian national (2006).
Briggs tries to cover his tracks
Briggs, learned in January 2019 he was being investigated (his leave or his IT activities had come to light), and warned his Russian national paramour that they were being investigated. This warning served to hinder the government’s investigation.
Additional charges against Briggs include his possession of illegal images and his attempts to view these illegal images from June 2018 through December 2018.
A few nuggets from the Briggs charge sheet are worthy of approbation. Facility Security Officers need to emphasize that close and continuing relationships with foreign nationals must be declared, when they occur. Similarly, foreign travel, should be declared and appropriate counterintelligence travel briefs provided. Finally, close collaboration and coordination with information security on unauthorized access to information or unauthorized sharing of classified information should be table stakes.
What we don’t know, but may suspect, is that Briggs foreign travel became known and the CI team at Offutt did some digging where they discovered the existence of current and prior foreign national relationships, his sharing of classified information, and his heinous retention and viewing of illegal images.