A contract linguist working for the Defense Department out of Kurdistan was charged Wednesday with passing highly sensitive classified information to a person connected to Hezbollah.
Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, formerly of Rochester, Minn., was arrested by FBI agents on Feb. 27. She had been assigned to a Special Operations Task Force facility in Erbil since the middle of December, and held a top secret clearance.
According to the affidavit, on Dec. 30, the day protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in reaction to U.S. airstrikes against Iran-backed forces in Iraq, Thompson accessed information unnecessary to her job on the DoD network. Through Feb. 10, the FBI said, she accessed 57 files on eight human intelligence sources, including names, photos, background information, and details on the intel provided by those sources.
Agents searched Thompson’s residence on Feb. 19 and found a note in Arabic under her mattress containing classified information, naming three HUMINT assets whose phones should be monitored and naming a Hezbollah-connected target who should be warned, according to prosecutors. During January, the affidavit alleges, Thompson accessed two intelligence reports about one of the assets named in the note.
Agents said that after her arrest, Thompson said she passed the classified information at the behest of a love interest, identified as a Lebanese national located outside of the United States. During interrogation, Thompson claimed she didn’t know if he was associated with Hezbollah or Lebanon’s Shia Amal Movement, a political party allied with Hezbollah. “I hate Hezbollah… I don’t know nothing about Hezbollah,” she allegedly told investigators.
She allegedly told investigators of the note found under the mattress that she viewed the classified information, memorized it, wrote it down, and messaged images of the notes to her co-conspirator with her cell phone. The FBI said it confirmed messaging activity between Thompson and her contact, and retrieved a screen shot of her holding up a second note identifying a fourth intelligence asset by name. Thompson denied transmitting an image regarding information provided by the asset on a terrorist being targeted by the United States.
Thompson was charged with delivering defense information to aid a foreign government. She faces up to life in prison if convicted.
“The conduct alleged in this complaint is a grave threat to national security, placed lives at risk, and represents a betrayal of our armed forces,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Shea for the District of Columbia. “The charges we’ve filed today should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider disclosing classified national defense information to a terrorist organization.”