(March 4, 2020 / JNS) A linguist who worked for the U.S. Department of Defense was charged on Wednesday with espionage for allegedly transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national with apparent connections to the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, announced the U.S. Department of Justice.
The information Mariam Thompson, 61, gathered and passed along allegedly included classified national defense information regarding active human assets, including their actual names, according to the affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint.
“While in a war zone, the defendant allegedly gave sensitive national defense information, including the names of individuals helping the United States, to a Lebanese national located overseas,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement. “If true, this conduct is a disgrace, especially for someone serving as a contractor with the United States military. This betrayal of country and colleagues will be punished.”
Thompson was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27 at an overseas U.S. military facility, where she worked as a contract linguist and held a top-secret government security clearance, according to the DOJ.
The investigation leading to this arrest revealed that starting on or around Dec. 30, 2019—a day after U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and the same day that protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq to protest those strikes—audit logs show a notable shift in Thompson’s network activity on U.S. Department of Defense classified systems, including repeated access to classified information she had no need to access, according to the DOJ.
Specifically, during a six-week period between Dec. 30, 2019, and Feb. 10, 2020, Thompson accessed dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources, including true names, personal-identification data, background information and photographs of the human assets, as well as operational cables detailing information the assets provided to the U.S. government, stated the DOJ.
A court-authorized search of Thompson’s living quarters on Feb. 19 led to the discovery of a handwritten note in Arabic concealed under Thompson’s mattress that contained classified information from Department of Defense computer systems, identifying human assets by name, and warning a Department of Defense target who is affiliated with a designated foreign terrorist organization with ties to Hezbollah, according to the DOJ, which added that the note also instructed that the human assets’ phones should be monitored.
Federal prosecutors stated that Thompson transmitted the classified information in the handwritten note to a co-conspirator. The FBI’s investigation revealed that Thompson knew the co-conspirator was a foreign national whose relative worked for the Lebanese government.
The investigation also revealed that the co-conspirator has apparent connections to Hezbollah, according to the DOJ.
Further investigation revealed that, in a separate communication, Thompson also provided information to her co-conspirator identifying another human asset and the information the asset had provided to the United States, as well as providing information regarding the techniques the human assets were using to gather information on behalf of the United States, said prosecutors.
If convicted, Thompson faces up to life in prison, according to the DOJ.
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