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George W. Maschke
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Would-be Spy Elizabeth Jo Shirley: Yet Another Apparent Failure of Polygraph Screening
Jul 9th, 2020 at 9:24am
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Elizabeth Jo Shirley


On Monday, 6 July 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Elizabeth Jo Shirley of Hedgesville, West Virginia, had pleaded guilty to unlawfully retaining classified information.

Shirley served in the U.S. Air Force as a cryptologic language analyst from 1994-2000, during which time she was assigned to NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Her plea agreement (attached), which she signed ot 30 April 2020, stipulates that "Beginning in the 1990s (emphasis added), Ms. Shirley removed without authorization from...secure locations classified paper and digital documents containing information—including TOP SECRET information—relating to the national defense. She retained those documents in her residences, on her person, in her electronic devices, and in a storage unit she rented in Berkeley County, West Virginia in May 2016."

The plea agreement goes on to specify that "From May 2001 to August 2012, Ms. Shirley held various positions with the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, and at least five different cleared defense contractors. In connection with these positions, Ms. Shirley held TOP SECRET/SCI security clearances at various times. In addition, in November 2003, Ms. Shirley was granted a 'Q' security clearance for her work with the Department of Energy, which permitted her to access classified information related to nuclear weapons and related materials."

It seems inevitable that Shirley would have been subjected to polygraph screening after she began unlawfully retaining classified information in the 1990s. Polygraph screening techniques include a specific question about mishandling classified information. The "Test for Espionage and Sabotage" format used by DoD and DOE includes the relevant question, "Have you (deliberately) mishandled any classified information?"

The "scoping guide" for the question about mishandling of classified information covers the following points (see pp. 36-38 of the TES Administration Guide):

Quote:
Question Definitions:

Deliberately mishandling classified information: The deliberate failure to protect classified information. Removing or storing either hard copy, electronic, or memorized classified information with the intent of giving, passing, selling, keeping, or publishing that information for any reason.
This definition is also concerned with unauthorized removal of classified information or material from a secure location and long-term storage outside an approved area. This would include any transfer of classified material to a non-approved computer. This transfer would constitute long-term storage of classified material even if the individual attempted to delete the information, because of the difficulty in deleting files from a computer.

...

Unauthorized Removal and Storage

* Removing classified information from its secure environment
* Storing at home, apartment, car, rented storage facility, friend's house
* Downloading classified ont any unclassified medium
* Placing classified information where control is lost
* Passing classified information from one company to another in an unauthorized manner or without proper authorization
* Knowledge of deliberate mishandling of classified information that one fails to report



The plea agreement indicates (at pp. 4-5) that by 2019, Shirley intended to sell the classified information she had unlawfully retained to the government of Russia:

Quote:
On July 19, 2019, Ms. Shirley and her daughter began their journey by personal vehicle, airplane, taxi, and bus from Hedgesville, West Virginia to Mexico City, Mexico, where they arrived a few days later. Ms. Shirley traveled to Mexico with several electronic devices, including at least one  laptop computer, two tablets, five cell phones, four mobile SIM cards, three external hard drives, four thumb drives, and nine SD cards. Ms. Shirley also brought identity documents and proof of her bona fides as someone who had worked with the U.S. Government, including United States Intelligence Community, for over two decades. In traveling to Mexico with these items, Ms. Shirley intended to make contact with representatives of the Russian Government through its embassy located in Mexico City, and offer her skillset in exchange for money and resettlement in a country that would not extradite her to the United States.

While in Mexico City in early August 2019, Ms. Shirley drafted multiple messages to Mexico-based representatives of the Government of Russia. In one message ("Message #1"), which Ms. Shirley printed, she stated,

Quote:
Read Me First. For the Rezident.[footnote omitted] You have a virtual walk-in. Please consider my request seriously. Americans never dangle their top Intelligence Community [Country A] Cyber expert and her child. I think that after reviewing my credentials...you will be pleasantly surprised. You can polygraph (box) me and debrief me at length.


Ms. Shirley further wrote that she "would very much like Russian Asylum, citizenship and consulting work," and that she "would be a particular asset to Russia with [her] background and skillset." Ms. Shirley also stated, "I have an urgent need of having items shipped from the USA related to my life's work before they are seized or destroyed." Ms. Shirley concluded that she looked "forward to hearing" from the person and to starting "a mutually beneficial arrangement."

In another message she drafted while in Mexico City ("Message #2"), Ms. Shirley outlined her requests of the Russian Government, which included, among other things, money, housing, and new identities for herself and her daughter. In addition, Ms. Shirley requested (1) to establish a secure method of communication, warning, "any compromise and my data will lose its utility and shelf-life[,]" (2) that the Russian Government agree in writing that it would never trade her to the United States, to the European Union, to any United States partners, or to [Country A], and (3) for assistance importing her possessions, including reference materials, papers, and computer work files related to her previous work, which needed to be shipped urgently so they were not confiscated before they could be retrieved.

In a third message drafted while in Mexico City ("Message #3"), Ms. Shirley described her background, touted her experience working with the U.S. Intelligence Community, and noted her previous access to TOP SECRET and nuclear-related classified information.

On August 13, 2019, the United States Marshals Service and Mexican law enforcement located Ms. Shirley and her daughter at a hotel in Mexico City. Mexican authorities arrested Ms. Shirley pursuant to an arrest warrant the West Virginia State Police had obtained on a charge of concealment of a minor from a custodian. At the time of her arrest, Ms. Shirley was in possession of handwritten notes listing the names of individuals working at the Russian Embassy in Mexico City. Next to the names, the notes listed times, such as 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The notes also included the addresses of the Russian Embassies in Cuba and Panama. The next day, law enforcement authorities delivered Ms. Shirley and her luggage via airplane to the custody of law enforcement at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.

On August 18, 2019, the FBI executed a search warrant at a Berkeley County, West Virginia storage unit that Ms. Shirley had rented since in or around May 2016. Ms. Shirley visited this storage unit on July 19, 2019, immediately before beginning the trip to Mexico City with her daughter.

The FBI subsequently executed search warrants on numerous of Ms. Shirley's electronic devices, including devices she took to Mexico in July 2019 and devices the FBI seized from her storage unit in August 2019. Pursuant to these searches, the FBI identified the following items, all of which Ms. Shirley retained without authorization.

i. NSA Document (Count One)

FBI seized a hard copy document ("Document A") from Ms. Shirley's storage unit. Document A is a National Security Agency report outlining intelligence information regarding a foreign government's military and political issues. Document A is classified at the TOP SECRET/SCI level, is closely held yb the U.S. government, and constitutes national defense information. Based on the level and amount of details contained in the document, its unauthorized release could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.

Ms. Shirley was aware that Document A was classified and contained national defense information and that retaining Document A in her storage unit put the information and national security at risk. Ms. Shirley's storage unit was not a location authorized to store classified information. Ms. Shirley knew that it was not an authorized location for such storage and, having unauthorized possession of Document A relating to the national defense, willfully retained Document A and failed to deliver it to an officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.

ii. Office of Naval Intelligence Information in PowerPoint Presentation

From one of the electronic devices Ms. Shirley had in her possession in Mexico City, FBI seized a PowerPoint presentation ("Document B"). FBI also seized a copy of Document B from an electronic device found in Ms. Shirley's storage unit. Document B belongs to the Office of Naval Intelligence, where Ms. Shirley previously worked, as discussed above, and concerns Department of Defense network relationships. The title slide of Document B lists Ms. Shirley as its author. Document B is classified at the SECRET level, is closely held by the U.S. government, and constitutes national defense information. Based on the level and amount of details contained in the document, its unauthorized release could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.

iii. CIA Information in Message #3

From one [sic] the electronic devices Ms. Shirley had in her possession in Mexico City, FBI seized a copy of Message #3. As discussed above, Message #3 is a message to Russian Government officials that Ms. Shirley drafted while in Mexico City, in which Ms. Shirley described her background and work experience with the U.S. Intelligence Community. The Central Intelligence Agency has determined that Message #3 contains multiple statements classified at the SECRET level.



Ironically, the plea agreement stipulates that Shirley, who almost certainly passed at least one polygraph screening "test" while unlawfully retaining TS/SCI information, "will agree to submit to a polygraph examination if requested to do so by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia."

Shirley joins SIGINTers Hal Martin and Nghia Hoang Pho, who also passed polygraph screening "tests" while unlawfully retaining classified information.
  

mary-jo-shirley-plea-agreement.pdf ( 1024 KB | 111 Downloads )

George W. Maschke
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Perry Mason
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Re: Would-be Spy Elizabeth Jo Shirley: Yet Another Apparent Failure of Polygraph Screening
Reply #1 - Jul 10th, 2020 at 11:53pm
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I wonder if she'll pass her next polygraph?
  
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