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USS Theodore Roosevelt commander fired after unclassified email

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  • The Secretary of the Navy offered more details into his decision in relieving the commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier dealing with a coronavirus outbreak.
  • Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt penned a letter to his superiors about the urgent situation aboard his ship, which was dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
  • “The letter was sent over non-secure, unclassified email even though that ship possesses some of the most sophisticated communications and encryption equipment in the fleet,” the Navy Secretary said.
  • He said that the captain should not have sent a “blast out email to anybody who he knows about the situation,” adding that it was “copied to 20 or 30 other people.”
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The Secretary of the Navy on Thursday offered more details into his decision in relieving the commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier dealing with a coronavirus outbreak off the coast of Guam.

Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly cited a loss of confidence. Crozier on Sunday penned a letter to his superiors about the urgent situation aboard his ship, which was dealing with the spread of the coronavirus amongst the ranks.

The letter was eventually leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published its story on Tuesday.

According to Modly, Crozier was in violation of military protocols in circumventing the chain of command by sending the letter to a group of people. Modly said that while he did not how the letter eventually found its way to the media, there was a “proper way of handling” his concerns.

“The letter was sent over non-secure, unclassified email even though that ship possesses some of the most sophisticated communications and encryption equipment in the fleet,” Modly said.

The Defense Department uses two separate network systems for disseminating classified and unclassified information — the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPR) and the Non-classified Internet Protocol Router (NIPR). Both of these networks are available aboard a US aircraft carrier.

USS Theodore Roosevelt



Chad M. Trudeau/US Navy


Modly did not disclose all of the recipients of the email and claimed he did not know how the letter was leaked. He said that the captain should not have sent a “blast out email to anybody who he knows about the situation,” adding that it was “copied to 20 or 30 other people.”

“I do know he did not safeguard that information to keep it from being leaked anywhere,” Modly said.

Crozier’s direct superior is Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, who, according to Modly, was on the ship and a “walk down the hallway.”

In his letter, Crozier asked for a “political solution” and “immediate and decisive action” as his crew dealt with the coronavirus outbreak. Over 110 service members of the roughly 4,800 crew members tested positive as of Thursday.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in his letter. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

Following the publication of Crozier’s letter, sailors were rotated off the ship in Guam. Roughly 2,700 of them are expected to be taken off in the coming days, with many being isolated to nearby hotels.

“The letter worked,” a sailor aboard the ship told The Chronicle.

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