Federal prosecutors have announced espionage charges against a former Rochester, MN woman, who was working as a linguist at an overseas US military facility, saying she gave classified information to a romantic interest who reportedly has connections to Hezbollah.
Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, who had Top Secret government security clearance, is accused of transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national with apparent connections to Hezbollah, a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the Secretary of State.
According to the affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, the information Thompson gathered and transmitted included classified national defense information regarding active human assets, including their true names. By compromising the identities of these human assets, Thompson placed the lives of the human assets and U.S. military personnel in grave danger the announcement said.
The investigation leading to the arrest revealed that starting on or about December 30, 2019, a day after U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, and the same day protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq to protest those strikes, audit logs show a notable shift in Thompson’s network activity on United States Department of Defense classified systems, including repeated access to classified information she had no need to access.
Specifically, during a six-week period between December 30, 2019, and February 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 United States government.
A court-authorized search of Thompson’s living quarters on February 19, 2020, led to the discovery of a handwritten note in Arabic concealed under Thompson’s mattress. The note 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. The note also instructed that the human assets’ phones should be monitored.
The announcement said that Thompson transmitted the classified information in the handwritten note to a co-conspirator, in whom she had a romantic interest. 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. 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.
Thompson was charged with delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and conspiracy to do so. Thompson made a brief appearance in federal court on Wednesday. If convicted, Thompson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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