US sailor pleads guilty to taking photos inside nuclear submarine
U.S. Navy handout image shows a Seawolf-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (AFP)

A US sailor pleaded guilty on Friday to taking photos of the inside of restricted areas of a nuclear submarine in Connecticut in 2009 and then trying to cover up his actions when authorities began to investigate, federal prosecutors said.

Kristian Saucier, 29, of Arlington, Vermont, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to one criminal count of unauthorized possession and retention of national security information.

Saucier admitted to taking cellphone photos of classified areas of the U.S.S. Alexandria, including its nuclear reactor and equipment used to maneuver the submarine. He took the pictures on three occasions in 2009, while he was stationed on the sub in Groton, Connecticut, as a machinist's mate.

Authorities began to investigate Saucier in 2012 when they found his cellphone containing the images at a trash station. After an initial interview with investigators, Saucier returned home and destroyed a laptop computer, camera and memory card, prosecutors said.

Court papers do not explain Saucier's motives for taking the pictures, and his lawyer did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

The plea deal suggests a sentence of up to 6-1/2 years in prison. Saucier is set to be sentenced in August.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)