US defense linguist charged with passing classified information to Hezbollah

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A US woman has been charged with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment for delivering national defense information to aid Hezbollah, according to a statement released by the US Department of Justice.

Mariam Taha Thompson, 63, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, worked as a contract linguist at an overseas US military facility where she had top-secret government security clearance.

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Thompson pleaded guilty to transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national, who she believed would provide the information to Lebanese Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

“Thompson jeopardized the lives of members of the US military, as well as other individuals supporting the US in a combat zone when she passed classified information to a person she knew was connected to Lebanese Hezbollah, a foreign terrorist organization which intended to use the information to hurt this country,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Thompson admitted that, beginning 2017, she started communicating with her unindicted co-conspirator using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice messaging application.

Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her confidente, and learned that the person had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior. The person claimed to have received a ring from Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah.

In December 2019, while Thompson was assigned to a special operations task force facility in Iraq, the US launched a series of airstrikes in Iraq targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah, culminating in a Jan. 3, 2020, strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani, along with the founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Following Suleimani’s death, Thompson's co-conspirator started asking her to provide information to “them” about the people that had helped the US target Suleimani. Thompson admitted that she understood “them” to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander.

After receiving this request for information in early January 2020, Thompson began accessing 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 US government. Thompson used several techniques to pass this information on to the unindicted co-conspirator, who told her that his contacts were pleased with the information, and that the Lebanese Hezbollah military commander wanted to meet Thompson when she came to Lebanon, the Department of Justice said.

When she was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27, 2020, Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight clandestine human assets; at least 10 US targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures. Thompson intended, and had reason to believe that this classified national defense information would be used to the injury of the US and to the advantage of Lebanese Hezbollah, the department stated.

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