Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Commentary: Love story or Chinese spy maneuver?

Illicit affair led to security breach

By catherine a. traywick

First Published Mar 16 2014 04:21 pm • Last Updated Mar 16 2014 04:21 pm
Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

WASHINGTON — Theirs was an unconventional love story. He was a 59-year-old, married defense contractor with a top security clearance. She was a 27-year-old Chinese national with a student visa.

They met at a defense conference in Hawaii, where he lived, and began an illicit, long-distance romance that lasted nearly three years and saw him give her reams of classified U.S. military secrets.

But like all good love stories, this one ends unhappily. Last week, Benjamin Bishop pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of unlawfully transmitting and retaining classified national defense information. No charges have been brought against his girlfriend, whose identity has not been made public.

When the couple began the ill-fated love affair, Bishop was working in cyber defense at the U.S. Pacific Command, and the young woman was attending graduate school in the United States on a J-1 visa.

Their courtship was unusual from the beginning: According to an FBI affidavit, she repeatedly asked Bishop not to give her classified information, but nevertheless persisted in asking him questions about his work at Pacific Command.

For obvious reasons, various media have branded her a Chinese "honeytrap," fueling speculation that she’s actually a spy who seduced Bishop in order to gain access to sensitive military information.

Who needs sophisticated hacker groups, after all, when you have 27-year-old co-eds? FBI Special Agent Scott Freeman acknowledged in an affidavit that that the young woman may have attended the conference in Hawaii "in order to target individuals such as Bishop."

But in court, Bishop’s attorney, Birney Bervar, characterized the couple’s exchange of secret information as an act of love, not espionage.


story continues below
story continues below

Let’s hope that’s true. Because it seems that Bishop just can’t quit this woman. After being arrested and jailed last year, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi released him to a residential halfway house on the condition that he not contact his girlfriend. So, naturally, he wrote her some love letters, sending them by email and post including, according to a court document, the ominous warning, "I take a risk in sending mail to you. Please do not reveal it to anyone." He was soon remanded back to prison.

If Bishop is convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison. Nocharges have been filed against his mysterious girlfriend. No word yet on why she asked her beau to collect classified information for her.

But the romantic in us really wants to believe it’s just research for her dissertation.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.