Sailor imprisoned for sub photos speaks out

Kris Saucier, right, with his wife Sadie at their home in Arlington, Vt. The former Navy sailor just completed a yearlong prison sentence for taking photos in classified areas of a nuclear attack submarine. (Courtesy the Saucier family)
Kris Saucier, right, with his wife Sadie at their home in Arlington, Vt. The former Navy sailor just completed a yearlong prison sentence for taking photos in classified areas of a nuclear attack submarine. (Courtesy the Saucier family)

After spending a year in prison for taking photos in classified areas of a nuclear attack submarine, Kristian Saucier, 31, is speaking out, saying he was treated more harshly than others in higher positions who’ve mishandled classified information.

Saucier pleaded guilty in May 2016 to one count of unauthorized retention of national defense information, a felony charge, and was sentenced to a year in prison at Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens in western Massachusetts.

Since getting out of prison on Sept. 6, he’s done interviews from his home in Arlington, Vt., where he lives with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, mostly appearing on conservative news programs. Saucier, who didn’t speak at length during court proceedings, said he waited to speak out until after he “served my debt to society.”

He compared his case to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and Gen. David Petraeus’ mishandling of classified information, saying he believes a “double standard” exists. Saucier said he, his lawyers and his family were “obviously hopeful” that in light of those cases, he’d get probation.

“We were basically saying, look here's this guy is who is accepting responsibility for a mistake he made when he was a young kid, who went on to serve honorably in the military,” Saucier said in a phone interview with The Day last week.

The Department of Justice recently denied Saucier’s request for a presidential pardon, but Saucier said he’s still hopeful Trump would pardon him anyway. Trump has twice referenced Saucier’s case publicly: once on the campaign trail, and once in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity just after he took office.

Saucier was a machinist's mate aboard the USS Alexandria when on at least three different occasions in 2009 he used his cellphone camera to take pictures of various technical components of the submarine's nuclear propulsion system while it was docked at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

“That’s the job that I did. I worked in the engine room. I was a mechanic. So I took pictures of the places that I worked because I was really proud of them,” Saucier said.

The government, which sought 63 months of prison time in the case, argued that the photographs contained information sought by U.S. adversaries and would shrink the country’s military advantage.

Between 2009, when he took the pictures, and early 2012, when he was first interviewed by law enforcement, Saucier said he re-enlisted in the Navy and got a “prestigious job” as an instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, N.Y.

“I was doing a good job. It wasn’t like I made a mistake and then just continued on this bad path,” he said.

While serving on the Alexandria, Saucier received briefings on handling classified information, including taking pictures, “but then the same people giving those briefings and saying ‘Hey, don’t do this,’ right after the briefing, you walked back and they were taking pictures in those areas, so it was kind like, well, maybe this isn’t that big of a deal.”

Saucier said that as a machinist’s mate on the submarine, he handled secret and top secret information on a regular basis, and that the pictures he took were confidential, the lowest tier of classification. One of pictures showed a treadmill in a tight spot in the engine room, he said, “so when you were working out on it you had to bend over so you didn’t hit your head.”

“I thought that was something that would be funny to look back on when I’m older and say “Hey, look this is where I had to work out.” That’s the mindset I had taking the pictures,” he said.

j.bergman@theday.com

 

 

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