Hedgesville resident enters plea about taking defense information

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Berkeley County resident has admitted to retaining a document containing national defense information to provide the information to Russia.

Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, told authorities she got possession of a National Security Agency document containing national defense information and fled to Mexico with her child, obstructing the father’s parental rights.

According to U.S. Attorney William Powell’s office, 47-year-old Shirley served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force and received security clearance in August 1994. She later served in the Air Force Reserves and the Navy Reserves.

Between May 2001 and August 2012, she was associated with the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force and five different cleared defense contractors. She had top-level security clearance at various times during the 11-year period.

The federal office said Shirley went to Mexico “with the intent to make contact with representatives of the Government of Russia” with national defense information on Mexico. She intended to request resettlement to a country that would not extradite her to the United States.

Shirley also had possession of her 6-year-old daughter at the time, and failed to return the child to her father.

The U.S. Marshals Service and Mexican law enforcement located and arrested Shirley in August 2019. Federal agents found the security document in a Martinsburg storage unit.

Shirley faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for a county of willful retention of national defense information in addition to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for a count of international parental kidnapping.