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The Navy last fall relieved of command and demoted Tim Giardina, who as a three-star admiral had been deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which has wartime authority for the deployment and use of all U.S. nuclear weapons. Giardina was reprimanded for involvement in a casino gambling case in Iowa. Giardina, who had no connection to the Charleston cheating, was reprimanded for involvement in a casino gambling case in Iowa.

Richardson said the accused at Charleston fell into two main categories:

-Sailors who cheated on the tests.

-Sailors who enabled the cheating by providing answers in advance to others taking the test and tipping them off about what test they would be given.

Richardson called the latter group of 10 sailors the ringleaders and said their offenses are considered more serious because they had facilitated the illicit transfer of classified test answers. The 10 are still under investigation by NCIS.

An extensive investigation ordered by Richardson and led by Rear Adm. Kenneth M. Perry found that an electronic master file of “engineering watch supervisor” tests and answers was illegally removed from a Navy computer “sometime before 2007.” Investigators, who completed their work in June after interviewing about 800 people, failed to identify who took it or exactly when.

The set of test and answer keys became known among the cheaters as the “Pencil Files.”

These files were secretly passed via personal email accounts, compact disks, thumb drives and other non-official electronic systems, the investigation report said. Richardson said the Pencil Files contained all 600 answers to questions on five sets of tests.

Also, a “Pencil Number” was passed to sailors to tip them to which of the five exams they would be given.

“The result was a deliberate scheme to cheat …,” the report said. It found no evidence of espionage.

Of those implicated, 27 initially denied involvement, the report said. Their denials, however, were contradicted by their own follow-on statements, email evidence or the sworn testimony of others interviewed by investigators. The 27 were charged with providing false official statements.

Exam security was weak. For example, investigators found that the five tests were used in a predictably rotating order and the questions had not changed significantly since 2004, even though written rules require they be changed frequently.

So those taking the instructor qualification exams between 2007 and February 2014, when the cheating was discovered, could count on the Pencil Files providing the relevant answers.

NCIS investigators interviewed four people thought to have knowledge of the origin of the Pencil Files. Three of the four denied involvement in the scheme and the fourth invoked his right to remain silent and requested an attorney.

“Thus, no further evidence of the origin of the ‘Pencil Files’ was obtained,” the investigation report said. The most it could determine was that the files were compromised between late 2004 and early 2007 by a member or former member of the Staff Training Group, which is responsible for the testing at Charleston.

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