Ransomware

U.S. Navy Dismisses Senior Leader For Wi-fi Network On Ship

Senior U.S. Navy Chief Marrero was dismissed from service and demoted down from rank E-8 to E-7 as punishment.

by Alan J June 5th, 2024

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The U.S. Navy took action against a senior enlisted leader who installed an unauthorized Wi-Fi system aboard a combat ship. According to documents obtained by the Navy Times, Grisel Marrero, the former command senior chief of the littoral combat ship USS Manchester’s gold crew, pleaded guilty in March to charges related to the operation of the illicit network and a subsequent cover-up.

The network appears to have been set up through the use of a Starlink satellite connected to the ship.

U.S. Navy Chief Attempted to Cover Up Illicit Network

The U.S. Navy began investigating the ship’s network installation in June 2023 when a crew member attempted to report the network to the ship’s commanding officer. However, Marrero intercepted the tip from being sent and avoided sharing information about the deployment of the Wi-Fi network.

The installation was eventually uncovered in August after Marrero edited an image of the ship’s Starlink data usage to conceal the Wi-Fi network’s activity. Prosecutors believe Marrero attempted this operation to impede pending disciplinary action against another sailor. It is unclear if the sailor was involved with the operation of the Wi-Fi network.

Marrero, who had a background in Navy intelligence, was relieved of her leadership position aboard the Manchester in September 2023 due to a “loss of confidence,” the Navy’s Surface Force Pacific (SURFPAC) command said in a statement.

The phrase “loss of confidence” is commonly used as a euphemism among military branches to announce that that enlisted officers and senior leaders have been relieved of their duty and while avoiding specific details or behavior behind the decision such as  performance or  misconduct.

Marrero later faced a court-martial, where she pleaded guilty to willful dereliction of duty and making false statements to her superiors. She was also demoted from the E-8 level rank to E-7 as punishment.

Other U.S. Sailors Implicated in the Wi-Fi Scandal

The Navy has also disciplined other sailors in connection with the illegal Wi-Fi network. While details of their involvement are scarce, a spokesperson for the Navy confirmed that other sailors were also punished for their role in the operation of the illicit network. The extent of their punishments is not yet clear, as the spokesman declined to provide further details.

The Manchester’s gold crew has faced significant changes in the past year, with Marrero and the ship’s second-in-command, Cmdr. Matthew Yokeley, both being relieved of their duties. The Manchester, which was in or around San Diego, Hawaii and Guam during Marrero’s alleged deeds, is a littoral combat ship assigned to SURFPAC, part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The reasons for Yokeley’s ouster are unclear, and SURFPAC officials have declined to provide further details.

In previous official press releases relating to the dismissal of Navy officers for unspecified reasons, such as the relieving of commodore Richard A. Zaszewski in March 2024, and commodore James Harne from duty in December 2023, the navy often made the following statement:

Navy leaders are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct. They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability, and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.

This incident serves as a reminder of the security concerns stemming from the use of unauthorized networks or digital communications while operating in official military or Navy duty. An official press release from the Navy, along with further information on other punishments involved with the unauthorized network, is expected in the coming months.

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