West Virginia

W.Va. Woman Charged With Mishandling Classified Information

Elizabeth Jo Shirley was charged with willful retention of national defense information

The National Security Agency campus is seen in this aerial photograph taken above Fort Meade, Maryland, on Nov. 4, 2019.
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A West Virginia woman who had already been accused of kidnapping her daughter faces a new charge of retaining top-secret information from the National Security Agency in a storage unit she leased, court papers show.

Elizabeth Jo Shirley was charged with willful retention of national defense information in a two-count criminal information document filed in federal court in West Virginia last week. That charging document is filed with a defendant’s consent and typically signals an intent to plead guilty. She also faces a count of international parental kidnapping.

The document contains only sparse information about the allegations, but says that between 1999 and August 2019, Shirley had unauthorized possession of documents "relating to the national defense" and "failed to deliver them to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive them."

Prosecutors say Shirley kept without authorization in a storage unit she leased a document relating to "the national defense that outlines intelligence information regarding a foreign government’s military and political issues." The charging document does not specify the information but says it was classified at the top secret level from the National Security Agency.

Shirley's attorney did not return a phone message seeking comment Monday.

In a motion last month seeking detention, federal prosecutors cited a risk that she would flee if released before trial and described her as a risk to obstruct justice. A judge agreed to keep her in custody.

A Justice Department spokesman declined Monday to comment on the case beyond the court filings. The NSA also declined to comment.

Shirley was accused of kidnapping her 6-year-old daughter in July 2019 after she failed to return the child on the agreed-upon date to the girl’s father, the primary residential parent, and his wife in West Virginia.

Shirley reported that she was having car trouble and promised to make the drop-off the following day, but instead headed toward the airport and ultimately left the country, authorities said.

Shirley and the girl were found by authorities at a hotel in Mexico City weeks later. The girl was returned to her father, and Shirley was charged with international kidnapping.

Associated Press writer John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this story.

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