West Virginia woman rushes to Mexico border with secret government documents -- then seeks asylum in Russia
Rights activists say that since first becoming president in 2000, Putin has gradually crushed freedoms in Russia (AFP Photo/Yuri KADOBNOV)

NBC News 4 investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane discovered a strange tale that could be Russia's next espionage scandal.


According to court filings of the incident, a West Virginia woman has confessed to driving to Mexico with her daughter with a series of top-secret U.S. government documents. She then sought asylum in Russia.

The documents MacFarlane posted on Twitter detail the items that were seized by the FBI and the travel that Ms. Elizabeth Shirley appeared to make from West Virginia to Mexico City.

"On August 18, 2019, the FBI executed a search warrant at a Berkeley County, West Virginia storage unit that Ms. Shirley had rented since in or around May 2016. Ms. Shirley visited this storage unit on July 19, 2019, immediately before beginning the trip to Mexico City with her daughter.

"The FBI subsequently executed search warrants on numerous of Ms. Shirley's electronic devices, including devices she took to Mexico on July 2019 and devices the FBI seized from her storage unit in Aug. 2019. Pursuant to these searches, the FBI identified the following items, all of which Ms. Shirley retained without authorization.

i. NSA Document (Count One)

FBI seized a hard copy document ("Document A") from Ms. Shirley's storage unit. Document A is a National Security Agency report outlining intelligence information regarding a foreign government's military and political issues. Document A is classified at the TOP SECRET/SCI level, is closely held by the U.S. government, and constitutes national defense information. Based on the level and amount of details contained in the document, its authorized release could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.

According to the documents, Shirley had several storage devices that could hold plenty of documents, though the details didn't reveal what was discovered on those drives yet.

"Ms. Shirley had in her possession, at least one laptop computer, two tablets, five cell phones, four mobile phone SIM cards, three external hard drives, four thumb drives and nine SD cards. Ms. Shirley also brought identity documents and proof of her bona fides as someone who has worked with the U.S. Government, including the United States Intelligence Community, for over two decades," the report said.

Shirley then reached out to the Russian Embassy in Mexico City to offer her skillset in exchange for asylum and a promise they wouldn't extradite her back to the U.S. She claimed that she "would be a particular asset to Russia with [her] background." She also said "I have an urgent need of having items shipped from the USA related to my life's work before they are seized or destroyed.

She faces 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

See the documents below: