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“Although most spy cases don’t involve peanut butter and Band-Aids, the facts alleged follow a familiar pattern ...”

Fmr. Justice Dept. official David Laufman on the arrest of a suburban couple for trying to sell government secrets.

Published on

oct 12, 2021

  • The couple at the center of this case: Jonathan and Diana Toebbe.
  • Jonathan is a former naval officer with expertise in nuclear engineering; Diana was a teacher. The couple has two children.
  • What we currently know (but may learn more about during a hearing on Tuesday): The couple allegedly attempted to sell information about the Navy's submarine technology to a foreign power (we don't know which country) by hiding encrypted information on computer chips placed in a Band-aid wrapper, peanut butter sandwich and a chewing gum package.
  • In return, the couple wanted cryptocurrency.
  • Motivation? We don't know. Investigators say the couple wasn't undergoing particularly obvious financial hardship and don't appear to have any obvious complaints against the Navy or U.S. government.
  • Why This Matters: This case (unusual and fascinating as it is) underscores how important submarine technology is to the U.S. government and how valuable it is to others. Reportedly, the information being offered by the couple was about the same type of nuclear submarines the U.S. recently announced they'll be selling to Australia (as a counter to China).

Here are the court documents so far and here's a background reader from The Washington Post.

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