Food and espionage go together like peas and clandestine carrots. One former CIA operative called restaurants and cafés “the lifeblood of espionage,” while an entire SpyScape article is dedicated to hiding intelligence in canned goods. (Am I going to end up on some sort of list for citing SpyScape?) Now, a wannabe spy has pleaded guilty to one count of “conspiracy to communicate restricted data”—a conspiracy that involved a peanut butter sandwich.
CBS News reports that Jonathan Toebbe, a Maryland-based naval nuclear engineer, was accused of trying to sell information about U.S. nuclear-powered submarines to a foreign government. Toebbe was arrested in October and pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data. The whole mess began in April 2020, when Toebbe began reaching out to an unnamed foreign government lookin’ to make a buck. At that time, Toebbe reportedly sent a package containing Navy documents and instructions about how to contact him. “I believe this information will be of great value to your nation,” he wrote, according to the complaint. “This is not a hoax.”
Months later, an undercover FBI agent reached out to Toebbe posing as a foreign agent. Court documents claim that Toebbe agreed to sell restricted data to the undercover agent for tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency. After making the agreement, Toebbe conducted a series of illicit drops in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, delivering memory cards full of restricted data about U.S. nuclear submarine designs. One drop allegedly involved placing a memory card inside half a peanut butter sandwich. In another drop, Toebbe hid a memory card inside a chewing gum package.
Points for creativity, I guess, although there are lots of other food items that would make great vessels of espionage. A can of Frito Lay bean dip, for example, or a massive party sub.
You could fit a lot of memory cards in a party sub.